Thursday, March 30, 2006

A typical week in Botswana

I just found this e mail in a draft folder. I wrote it a couple of years ago whilst I was still living in Botswana. I though I'd publish it as it has some interesting insights into life in Africa from an outsiders perspective.

'Hello there. Well, I'm finally back in Francistown following my five week trip to Zambia, the UK and Zambia again. I am now back at work so life is returning to normal. And normal in Botswana means funerals and hospital visits!

On route from the Zambian border we were overtaken by a South African car being driven by a Zambian guy I'd been chatting to at the border. He was shifting somewhat but that is par for the course in Botswana. About 50KM's after he'd overtaken us we came across his car in flames at the side of the road. He had swerved to avoid some cattle and had lost control of the vehicle. Fortunately, another Zambian guy and four Zimbabweans were quickly on the scene and managed to cut the man and his wife from the wreckage before the flames caused the car to blow. Being in the middle of nowhere police and/or paramedics were not an option so the Zambian rushed the patients to hospital whilst Betty and I packed up all of the couples belongings (which had also been rescued) and followed to Francistown.

The couple are now stable and will eventually be okay (a rarity in such circumstances over here) and we are visiting them twice a day to keep them company and to wash them, bring them food and drinks etc. The nurses here are worse than useless and are toatally uncaring. Patients are left for days on end and there is no guarantee that they will even be given prescribed medicines! The doctors at least are good and are aware of the nature of the majority of nurses they work with.

Furthermore, we arrived back to hear that Betty's friend, Ruth (one of our bridesmaids) had lost her mother. Now, as is the tradition, we are visiting the 'funeral house' on a daily basis. What with work, hospital visits and mourning I am a very tired man! Actually the funeral house isn't too bad as we just sit around chatting with our friends for a couple of hours.'

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The world's duty to eradicate HIV/AIDS

As well as treating those who are infected by HIV/AIDS the global community has a duty to reduce and ultiamtely eradicate the spread of the virus.

It sickens me to see the response of my own government and other governments in the modern industrialised world to health scares such as Avian Flu and a SARS. The reason for the dramatic over-reaction to SARS and more recently to 'Bird Flu' is because it might affect 'us'! Us being the citizens of the 'developed' world.

If only the same sense of urgency would be put into finding a cure/treatments for HIV/AIDS, Malaria, sickle-cell anaemia etc. That's the world we live in!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

HIV/AIDS - The Global issue!

I sometimes feel that discussions of HIV/AIDS sometimes miss the point. The emphasis in public debate too often is exclusively on HIV avoidance rather than the treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS. The world has a duty to care for its sick. We have a duty as a global community to to those who are infected with HIV/AIDS as well as ensuring that transmission of the virus is reduced and one day eradicated.

The focus of HIV/AIDS discussion and debate differs immensely between the rich developed countries where HIV/AIDS is still to have an impact on pandemic proportions and those countries of the developing world, and especially Sub-Saharan Africa, where everybody is affected by HIV/AIDS. In Sub-Saharan Africa treatment of HIV/AIDS is of paramount importance as well as the advocating of strategies that reduce transmission rates. In much of Europe and North America the domestic agenda is focused on the avoidance of HIV/AIDS rather than its treatment.

Will HIV/AIDS be taken more seriously by northern hemisphere politicians when white heterosexuals are infected their own countries? Hell yeah...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A father's graveside tribute

Hundreds of people swelled around the grave where Mary was to be laid to rest. Several Pastors lead the mourners in prayer before Mary's father was called upon to say a few words about his daughter.

His words were profound and touched me deeply.

He lavished praise upon his departed daughter. His pain was evident in his words and was engraved upon his face. After speaking so highly of Mary he then turned his attention to the rest of his children and family memebers gathered at the graveside. He began to rebuke them. He told them in no uncertain terms that they had lost a remarkable sister - a sister who had provided for all the family whilst her siblings had sat at home comfortable in the knowledge that Mary would not let them go hungry. He reminded them that now with Mary gone they would have to fend for themselves. They would have to get up from their chairs and go out to work.

His words were passionate but not harsh. He spoke out of love - not just for his departed daughter but for her siblings. He desparately wanted Mary's life to be an inspiration to the rest of her family.

I felt that his words were brave. He spoke the words that many fathers had left unsaid. I hope that his words were heard by his children and by others gathered there - and that they inspired some to act and not just be reliant on one or two family members to support everyone else.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mary's Funeral

On the morning of Mary's burial we travelled to Mary's family home in order to assist with providing transport to the church. Several dozen people clung to my bakkie as we made our way through the pothole filled roads of the locations. The funeral party wound its way through the streets until finally we arrived at a modern church a few kilometres away. The church was newly built and was clearly thriving. Mary had been a Pastor at the Church and thus the building was full to beyond a comfortable capacity.

Mary's body lay at the front of the church in front of the altar. Behind the coffin stood an array of Pastors - each of whom would play a part in the service. The most moving part of the service for me was its climax when the congregation filed passed Mary's open casket. Watching her mother and father and especially her son saying goodbye to their daughter/mother has heartwrenching.

After the service we returned to the bakkie and again filled up with people. We then followed the hearse and funeral cars to the cemetry.

The cemetry in Lusaka is the size of a small town. It is vast. The mounds of earth that mark each grave are stretch far beyond the horizon in every direction. In order to accomodate the dead the authorities have had to dig graves in between existing plots and thus the graves are incredibly close together. In fact it is difficult to walk through the graveyard without stepping on the side of some of the mounds.

The driver of the hearse struggled to find the plot where Mary was to be buried. We drove in a snake-like convoy through the cemetry for a worryingly long period of time before the plot was found. In other circumstances the scene might have been almost comical. It goes to illustrate just how vast the cemetries are in Southern Africa.