It’s said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But doctors are very far away in Zimbabwe, as in entirely other countries where they might actually be paid for their services. Worse, most people don’t have anything to eat, let alone fresh fruit. Zimbabwe’s infrastructure has been in a downward spiral for at least the last ten years. The education system is in ruins, hospitals are closed, roads are impassable and the water and sewage systems destroyed.
Zimbabwe inherited a colonial infrastructure now over thirty years old. I don’t condone colonialism, I don’t think Zimbabwe was better off because the British were there and it’s not because the British left that things fell apart. It was a combination of government mismanagement and an acknowledged siphoning of funds by the central bank leading to the lack of infrastructure maintenance. Schools and hospitals, once some of the most respected in Africa are in shambles. Teachers, doctors and other health care professionals left in search of a living wage, particularly as Zimbabwe’s inflation soared to astronomical heights. The current government salary of $100US a month is not enough to feed and house their families, pay school fees, even commute to work.
Last year a cholera epidemic erupted in Zimbabwe which will soon reach the 100,000 cases benchmark. Unless the water treatment plants and sewer systems receive urgently needed repairs, it is anticipated that cholera will return at crisis levels when the rainy season resumes in October. The 2009 harvest was below projected levels, meaning Zimbabwe will be the world’s most food needy country per capita in 2009. Zimbabwe’s once effective HIV anti-retroviral drug dispersal program has faltered with the medical system collapse, and poor nutrition makes the drugs less effective and difficult to digest. Food insecurity also exaccerbates the cholera crisis.
Zimbabwe needs more than apples. It needs good governance and directed humanitarian aid (aid that is dispensed to non-governmental organizations to pay salaries and restore the infrastructure rather than through a government of which donor States remain leery) to help the people of Zimbabwe rebuild their country. Until then, apples and healthcare are both very far away.
Fathi el-Jahmi © Private
Earlier this month, prisoner of conscience Fathi el-Jahmi turned another year older inside prison walls in Libya. He was arrested in 2002 after calling for political reform and free speech at a conference in Tripoli, and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Due to international support, he was released early in March 2004. Unfortunately, only weeks later, after repeating his call for democracy and political reform, he was detained yet again and has been in prison ever since. He suffers from heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and his health continues to deteriorate.
There’s a letter circulating in Congress right now, sponsored by Congressmen Frank Wolf and Mark Kirk, calling on the Libyan government to immediately release Fathi el-Jahmi and allow him to pursue medical care outside of Libya, according to his wishes. This letter really is our best chance at influencing the Lybian government, and Fathi el-Jahmi’s best chance at living to see another birthday—but so far not enough Members of Congress have signed on. Please take action!
Today is twenthieth anniversary of the first World AIDS Day, established to commemorate those who have died of the disease and marshal attention to address the epidemic. The World AIDS Campaign has declared “Lead-Empower-Deliver” to be the theme for this year.
For the last several years, AI has been zeroing in on the message that AIDS is a human rights issue. Human rights abuses place people at greater risk of contracting HIV, and, all too often, those living with HIV and AIDS are subjected to human rights abuses.
Check out Amnesty’s special web feature in honor of World AIDS Day.
Nowhere is the link between human rights abuses and HIV and AIDS clearer than in South Africa, where women, particularly those living in rural areas, face not only high HIV prevalence and high levels of sexual violence, but also widespread poverty. AI’s report, I am at the lowest end of all, draws on the stories of women who, having contracted HIV as a result of violence, must now overcome extreme poverty and disrcimination in order to obtain treatement.
Circling back to this year’s theme of leadership, Amnesty wants to know how governments measure up to our 10-point plan of action on HIV and AIDS and human rights. How is the U.S. doing? What changes would you like President-elect Obama to make to U.S. policy on HIV and AIDS when he takes office?