On Monday, an infant dies from tetanus.
On Tuesday, a pregnant woman passes away and her twenty-two weeks old foetus too. For unknown reasons.
On Wednesday, a five year old boy dies while being transported from the emergency department to the ward.
On Thursday morning, I hear a woman wailing for her husband, who breathes his last, before being seen by a doctor.
And on Friday afternoon I confirm the death of a twenty-four year old lad, speechlessly, after he suffered fevers for a number of days.
No, this is not going to be another pitiful story from Africa. I have long passed the stations of grief and pity. This is an angry letter.
I am angry because this is a random choice out of many needless deaths, all related to poverty. I am angry because this isn’t any news, but of old. A j’accuse needs a momentum, but my Dreyfus will never come. The injustice of global inequity is an everyday actuality.
I am angry because a befriended teacher receives a salary of twenty-seven thousand kwacha a month, which converts to roughly one pound per day. Just enough to survive if you cultivate your own maize and crops, as long as you don’t face any misfortune. How can he dedicate himself sufficiently to his job and safeguard the perspectives of his pupils?
People living in rural areas are particularly vulnerable. It’s hard to find money for transport to the hospital and the fields can’t do without their peasants. The disease may be in an irreversible state once a patient seeks medical care. By then it’s too late, in medical terms, but for many people it would be too early to seek care as long as there’s chance of improvement without intervention.
I am angry because the misery is caused by basic problems that would have been solved ages ago if there would have been the right will. Problems with education, infrastructure, a safe environment and basic health care. We hide the reality of countries like Malawi somewhere in the back of our mind. Where are the boundaries of our society? How big is our community, and how far do the responsibilities of a wealthy country reach?
I am angry because an average African peasant will never be invited to our major talk shows, and because opinion makers rather scuffle over trivial issues than over what may be the greatest injustice of our era. When a group of European doctors recently visited our hospital, I could read from their shocked faces that never before they had fully understood what world they were living in. By writing this letter my angriness subsides, and that’s just fine, because a good doctor is hard on the inside and soft on the outside. So good bye angriness, but will I ever comprehend?
(een Nederlandse versie van dit stuk verscheen op Joop.nl)