Tuesday, February 14, 2006

God and Malaria

I bought a beautiful CD yesterday by 'beulah' titled Mabel and I. It's so beautiful it took my breath away. Intelligent, seductive, challenging lyrics interwoven with remarkable melodies - it made me smile, weep and think...

One track particularly moved me called 'nevermore'. here are the lyrics.

You took my baby away from me
Don't understand Lord
When you close your eyes at night
How do you sleep
With all that on your mind?
It's like you gave me eyes
But you made them blind

And still, the world dances around
A million soldiers, women and children
Falling to the ground
Without a hope at all
That you can feel their pain
Or hear their call

How do you suppose that I forgive you Lord?
Tell me, how does life begin again

I need a tidal wave
To tear me from this place
And deliver me to your door
You'll show me inside
And open my eyes
I'll see the light once more
And I'll know if it is time
To question why

The sun is shinning
It's early June
The cradle's empty
And it's standing alone
In the corner of the room
And all I can do is cry
I cross my heart and hope to die

How do you suppose that I continue Lord
When life will never be the same again

Hold me while I fall asleep Lord
Or just until the morning comes
If I can make it through just one night
I can move on

I wept as I listened to this painfully beautiful ballad and thought of my children, but more than that my thoughts were taken to a small boy I met in Africa last year...little Elea...here is the story...as I write through my tears I wonder if he is still with us...and if he isn't how his mother feels...whether she needs her own tidal wave to see the light, and know if it is time to question why...nevermore...

Day7: The Tyranny of Distance: Malaria
There is a difficulty to enact effective development for sustained periods in the rural areas of Tanzania rather than the urban city. This is mainly due to the huge numbers of people who live there. In fact 85% of the population live in the countryside here, and this does beg the real question of what aid and development can and can’t do?

We meet today with DCT (The Diocese of Central Tanganyika) Dodoma Region, who have been in partnership with Christian Aid since 1998. We take a 100km drive north over the kind of terrain Chris Rea must have had in mind when he wrote ‘The Road to Hell’. As I gaze out of our window I see a weary, worn people desperate to carve a life out of this rural jungle. Even in open space this wilderness is claustrophobic. Bits of wood, mud and tin and stone thrown together are the ingredients of that sacred space called community.

I’m beginning to understand that real poverty is not about having no home or no food and clothes. Real poverty is where there are no choices. As we drive toward our destination we pass through a dust village, where children at best walk around in old dirty under pants, I realise that this community has been robbed of the greatest seed planted deep within each of us – choice. I have lost count of how many children I have seen with a lost distant look in their eyes. They look for a tomorrow that may never come, somehow dazed, confused and exhausted by their very existence.

Arriving at Chendee we continue with the now common custom of signing of the village visitors’ book, it becomes an in-joke smiley moment, but to the people of the places we visit it is important. The signatures become a sign of hope, proof if you like that there is somebody real and tangible in this world who not only cares for their plight, but more importantly, somebody is willing to do something about it to make a difference.

Over the next few hours we see how the projects are helping improve the low agricultural productivity, malnutrition – particularly in children under five, environmental degradation and the shortage of water supply to cover the 8405 rural households in the 8 villages in Lamaiti area of the Dodoma Region.

Tragically, no matter how good the knowledge and ideas for development are, if the rains don’t come, the crops fail, and sadly that is what has happened with much of the maize crops of Chendee. Thankfully last season was good and the people can live off their stored resources, but if the rains should fail again? Well, I don’t think you need me to explain what will happen. Erusha, whilst being an upbeat, glass half full lady, knows this all too well. It obviously troubles her; you see it in her eyes.

Then something happens that catches me completely off guard and disturbs my whole being. An explosion deep within me like some kind of spiritual depth takes place. I suspect my life will never be the same because of it. Moleni Ndumizi walks towards us with her four children. We are told her youngest Elea, who is three years old is unwell. I have a two year old and at this point I just assumed in my Western mind-set he had some virus, and would be well again in a few days. So when Moleni uncovered him to show us her boy and he started to throw up so much he nearly passed out and has to be carried into the shade I realised it was something a little more serious. Little Elea has Malaria, and he needs medicine and he needs it quickly. The trouble is this costs money, something Moleni doesn’t have, and it’s a 15km walk in 38 degrees to the medical centre.

In this moment my soul becomes thirsty for the intimate embrace of compassion, mercy and justice. How I long to hold my own boy and not let go. I put my hand on Elea and look into his eyes, and I wonder how we came to this – and more poignantly, I wonder how long he has to live. My emotions finally get the better of me and I have to walk away. Life is painfully tenuous and fragile here. We quickly put the two members of the Ndumizi family in one of our vehicles and drive them the 15km to the medical centre at Lamaiti. There, she gets the free drugs her boy so desperately needs. DCT pay for the ones that cost. Relief is tangible. Sadly though, this won’t be the end of the story. Elea will need more drugs, and it may not always be possible to obtain them. Robert gently says what we all know but don’t want to admit; that little Elea may not be here the next time DCT visit Chendee.

No comments: