By Gershom Ndhlovu
It is difficult to appreciate government’s efforts of sending a handful of people outside the country for treatment with the justification that all Zambians are entitled to this privilege. Maybe the first step that government should take to convince us is for the Ministry of Health to publish the names, of course not the ailments, of the so-called ordinary Zambians that have benefited from the privilege.
It is not difficult though to see that there are many people in Kalumwange dying (no pun intended) to be taken to Kaoma District Hospital. There are equally many people in Chiundaponde who need to be taken to Mpika District Hospital for preventable illnesses and the same is the case all over Zambia. But for reasons of lack of accessibility to these basic facilities, people are left to die in their homes.
This, unfortunately, is not just the case in rural areas. There are people dying in their homes in Kapoto in Kitwe, in Chipulukusu in Ndola and in Misisi in Lusaka.
When these people have the opportunity to go to a health centre, they are in most cases just end up being given prescriptions with which to buy medicine which is not cheap. With the Kwacha hard to come by, many people give up and just end up in their homes, awaiting death.
To make matters worse for the so-called ordinary Zambians to whom it is such a privilege to even go to the UTH, Ndola Central Hospital and Chipata General Hospital, most of the time, these institutions are not only hit by a shortage of medical and paramedical staff who have mostly left for greener pastures both within and outside the country, but they are also hit by frequent strikes by the staff that want an improvement in their conditions of service.
It is rather unfortunate that the Minister of Health, Brigadier-General Dr Brian Chituwo portrays a picture that such shortcomings in our health institutions are not a big issue going by his recent statement that led to two HIV positive people protesting outside parliament and ending up being arrested for trying to attract the attention of higher authorities to the plight of medical and paramedical staff.
Of course, the political elite and those close to them end up being evacuated to the now famous Morningside Clinic in Johannesburg even for simple illnesses like flu. Many poor people in need of renal dialysis are asked to pay huge amounts of money for the service at local hospitals while those with connections are taken to South Africa for ruptured ear-drums, depression and a myriad of ailments that can easily be taken care of locally, and all this at tax-payers’ expense.
What is sad is that the facilities to which the well-connected are sent, are manned by Zambians who have emigrated.
Franz Fanon, the author of The Wretched of the Earth and Black Faces, White Masks clearly stated that the political elite that fought for independence and by extension, those that have come after them, envied the way the colonialists lived and wanted to replace them so that they could also enjoy the privileges that the colonialists enjoyed. Improving the lot of the people was the least of their interests.
Looking at Africa today, Franz Fanon, the Algerian who was born in French Martinique, could not have been far from the truth even in the early 1960s when very few countries on the continent were independent.
He, as they say, must be turning in his grave in anger at the betrayal of the African people who are as impoverished today as they were before independence.
The story of one African president who chartered a plane for his daughter to go and give birth in Europe is still fresh in people’s minds.
**In the column “Gold Made in Mushili” two weeks ago, it was stated that mineral maps are believed to have disappeared during privatisation in the early 1970s. It should have read nationalisation instead of privatisation. –firstname.lastname@example.org.