In this photo supplied by Swaziland Solidarity Network protesters gather to protest in Manzini, Swaziland Tuesday April 12, 2011 before being dispersed by police. A spokesman for the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) said that police fired water canons and teargas and beat people with their batons to disperse the more than 1,000 workers who were singing and chanting at a teacher's training center as they prepared to march to the city's Freedom Square. The march never got underway

Mbabane – One in four households in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, were hit by the rising cost of food and even forced to skip meals, Unicef said in a report on Friday.

“The report showed that households with family members living with HIV were at greater risk to shocks and relied more on cheaper meals or skipped meals altogether,” said the report, which surveyed 1 334 households in 2011.

The poor southern African kingdom is grappling with a severe financial crisis after a sudden loss in earnings in 2011 from a regional customs union, its main source of income.

According to the report, Swaziland entered the crisis with “already major social challenges including the highest HIV rate in the world”. Experts say it stands between 25% and 40%.

Widespread poverty affects 63% of the 1.1 million population and 29% of them were in need of social security.

The report warned that failure to curb government spending as well as cuts in labour income threatened the country’s progress toward reaching the Millennium Goals in health, education, and food security.