Friday, October 19, 2012

Familiar sights

Friday 19th October

I realise how familiar I now find the way of life here. I don't think twice about the ladies with all manner of goods carried on their heads – even children will carry 4 or 5 litre water bottles. Many will balance the commodities without a thought about steadying them with their hands. Eating with my hands is second nature to me and mixing with cattle and Ox-carts in the streets seems perfectly normal. However I still find the poverty difficult to accept. How can we allow this to happen? We live in a world where we are capable of providing for everyone, where even the most disabled, with the right, equipment can take a very active part. If scientists co-operated we could solve the world's biggest problems. Yet the richest are not satisfied, we guard secrets that could make huge positive differences to mankind and we still spend fortunes on weapons.

Yesterday I was talking to Charles about his PEASSA project. He tries to provide support for a few elderly and disabled people around Monze. Sometimes he cannot afford the chemicals needed to stop disease and insects destroying his crop – and if he can they are often not available locally. He produced a long list of food that he would like to supply to every person each month – in practice he will just provide a client with a small bag of beans one month and the next a little bag of Kapenta (very small dried fish). Four of his clients will almost certainly have their houses washed away when the rains come – they are due any minute. They are hoping to have them rebuilt. Simple single room buildings made of mud bricks and grass thatching costing about £80 each. There is no way that PEASSA can find this money.

Today two ladies Agnes and Catherine came to see me. They had been waiting for Jennipher since morning. Agnes is the lady whose husband is sick – she tells me she has 6 not 5 children as I previously reported! Catherine lost her husband in 2008. Last month one of her sons died. She had to spend what little money she had on transport costs to and from the hospital. She has a little market stall where she tries to earn enough to keep her children - selling beans and Kapenta. She was considering selling her mattress and sleeping on the floor to raise enough money to buy a bag of Kapenta or beans tand start selling again. (Friends advised against it because she recently had a serious operation and sleeping on the floor wouldn't be good for her.). There is a major problem in Monze with water shortages. Sometimes at 3 am Catherine says she can get some water if she queues. She would like more than the two containers she has because it is difficult for the family to wash with so little, but she cannot afford extra containers. (People usually buy empty containers once used for cooking oil or similar commodities – about 5 litres.)

I visited a lady whose girl was in the children's ward. Her child was brought in with Jennipher's help and that of the bicycle ambulance. The child is unable to stand or support her head. The hospital have diagnosed sickle cell disease. She was in the ward for malnourished children. Here the children receive extra food, the parents however very often go hungry. The lady is pregnant with another child and worries how she will cope because she cannot afford a pram and carrying two children – one being severely disabled – is going to be a problem.

Unfortunately these stories are just a few of the many I come across, but give a glimpse into the lives of so many here in Zambia. Yet there are minerals here, particularly copper, which are much sought after and command high prices – someone is getting rich, but it certainly isn't the ordinary Zambian.

It is a great joy, as well as a relief, when water comes out of the tap. Yesterday we had a little water after lunch and today it is after 9 pm and this is the first water since yesterday. But I am lucky! It is rarely more than a day before water re-emerges. I can fill up a few bottles and a bucket when it arrives and I can cope till it comes back. For others water is a constant issue and often they have to resort to impure sources. There is plenty of water in Zambia – most of it underground – but the infrastructure needed to deliver it effectively is often absent.

My work on computers has had some success, but there are still computers in a sorry state and I doubt whether they will all be fully functional before I leave.

My stay here in Zambia is rapidly coming to an end. I intend to leave Monze on Wednesday, passing through Chisamba before leaving for the UK on Saturday. My final days are becoming booked by friends and my little projects – as usual I will run away leaving many things incomplete.

Bye for Now


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