Insanity

I heard a story this week about a Dutch doctor who practices in a clinic in Lindi which is on the coast of southern Tanzania near Mozambique.

Three years into her experience in health care here she was beginning to feel heartily disillusioned and was about ready to pack it all in to go home.

One of her greatest disappointments was watching women bear child after child that they could not afford to feed, clothe or educate. The injectable contraceptives the clinic were using were cheap – and clearly ineffective – imports from Asia and they didn’t work. It is estimated that 30% of the drugs dumped in Africa are at best useless, at worst, downright dangerous.

Added to this, the Americans, on account of President Bush’s fundamentalist Christian approach to life, will not fund anything that consitutes birth control: no contraceptive pills, no condoms.

Instead women keep having babies or die at the hands of back-street abortionists.

I don’t blame the doctor. Her vocation in life is about improving that of others. How can she when the Tanzanian government and the super powers conspire to make it even worse.

It’s not that I’m off Africa this week – she’s the essence of my very self, coursing through my veins – it’s just that I’m especially off all the frustrations that continue to hamper her.

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9 Responses to “Insanity”

  1. intlxpatr Says:

    I just found your blog today, and have been reading with utter fascination.

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks very much for reading.

  3. Roberta Says:

    I feel the sudden need to apologize for America.

  4. R. Sherman Says:

    I would note, that Americans have no problem funding contraception. However, a vast majority of Americans, regardless of the views on abortion, object to public funding of same, which in most instances is considered an elective procedure. It’s been that way for a long time.

    And, if I dare point to your prior post, there is a sneaking suspicion among us that our gifts to governments in Africa do not wind up helping the poor, but rather wind up lining the pockets of the reigning oligarchy. For example, I support an orphanage for Aids orphans in Uganda. The organization which runs it is quite candid: approximately 50-75% of all of their expenditures are on “licenses,” “fees,” etc., usually paid ad hoc to various “officials” who appear at odd hours and, smiling, threaten to close things down unless said fees are paid.

    Immediately.

    In cash.

    Thus, it is not a lack of desire, but a refusal predicated upon an unwillingness to support the corrupt system you describe, which keeps most Americans from wanting to contribute to assist in alleviating the problems of Africa.

    Cheers.

  5. Kathy Says:

    Hi,

    Just stumbled across your blog today as I am back in Dar on yet another work project and wondered if any Tanzania blogs had popped up in the year since I was last here. Love it – what a fascinating read! I did want to quickly comment that USAID actually funds a ton of family planning projects throughout the world (I work for a USAID contractor and have been involved directly in several of these). That includes using US taxpayer funds, approved by Congress, to increase the supply of and demand for a variety of contraceptive methods – male and female condoms, oral contraceptives, injectables, cycle beads… etc. I think the dollar amount this year is something over $425 million in direct support for family planning and reproductive health, which is not bad, but is just a tiny fraction of USAID’s entire portfolio — arguments can certainly be made about why that amount should perhaps be increased. I’m consistently amazed, though, that USAID’s Population Division manages to successfully garner funds for these activities, given the fact that we do have more than our fair share of conservatives in Congress who undoubtedly feel there are better ways to spend the money.

    Anyway – I have really enjoyed reading your entries and just wanted you to know that!

    Best,
    Kathy

  6. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Roberta; don’t apologise.

  7. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    And, if I dare point to your prior post, there is a sneaking suspicion among us that our gifts to governments in Africa do not wind up helping the poor, but rather wind up lining the pockets of the reigning oligarchy.

    Absolutely Mr Sherman. Sadly that’s precisely where most of it winds up.

    Thus, it is not a lack of desire, but a refusal predicated upon an unwillingness to support the corrupt system you describe, which keeps most Americans from wanting to contribute to assist in alleviating the problems of Africa.

    I know. And I support the sentiment. The thing is it would be inappropriate for Bush, say, to impose his religious sentiments upon a society where they might be entirely wrong: populationss growing as fast as they are in this part of the world need to be encouraged in the use of contraception.Something the Pope fails to do: foisting catholic (and I’m one myself) beliefs upon communities that are being crippled by numbers is at best ill-informed, at worst unethical and cruel. Many family planning charities put their heads into their hands when the Pope, during a visit, denounced contraception. Many more Christians here get the opportunity to go to church than school. So the messages get muddied.

  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Kathy – thank you for reading. And for taking the time to articulate such a detailed comment. I remain sceptical that all the funds end up where donors intend that they do. And I also think that often projects and/or individuals who could really put such funding to positive and honest use are thwarted in their attempts to qualify for grants. Recently I was involved in writing a proposal for a brilliant smallholder project – seeking funds from the Gates foundation whose express purpose of the funding in question was bringing peasant farmers’s produce to a worldwide arena. We had no success, yet another (well known) outfit that submitted a proposal did. This despite the fact they had made little or no headway in any of the other projects for which they’d been granted funds in the past. A case of bullshit baffles brains if I may.

  9. Pig in the kitchen Says:

    God, had no idea that this sort of thing happened. How demoralising. I’m afraid my comment is distinctly uneloquent compared to your other ones!
    Pigx

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