Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !

What a way to live.
Saturday 29th September 2007.

Dear Family and Friends,

Standing outside over yet another smoky fire late one afternoon this week, a Go-Away bird chastised me from a nearby tree. I'm sure this Grey Lourie is as fed up of me intruding into its territory as I am of being there - trying to get a hot meal for supper. For five of the last six days the electricity has gone off before 5 in the morning and only come back 16 or 17 hours later a little before midnight. "Go Away! Go Away!" the Grey Lourie called out repeatedly as my eyes streamed from the smoke and I stirred my little pot. My hair and clothes stink of smoke, fingers are yellow and sooty but this is what we've all been reduced to in Zimbabwe. Our government don't talk about the power cuts anymore and don't even try and feed us with lame excuses about how the power is being used to irrigate non-existent crops. We all know it's not true and the proof is there in the empty fields for all to see.
Something else our government aren't talking about anymore is the nationwide non availability of bread and the empty shops in all our towns and cities. Everywhere you go people are struggling almost beyond description to try and survive and yet the country's MP's, both from the ruling party and the opposition, do nothing to put an end to this time of horror. I have lost count of how many weeks this has been going on for but it must be around three months. None of the basics needed for daily survival are available to buy. There is no flour to bake with, no pasta, rice, lentils, dried beans or canned goods. People everywhere are hungry, not for luxuries like biscuits or snack food but for the staples that fill your stomach. When you ask people nowadays how they are coping, mostly they say that they are not, they say they are hungry, tired and have little energy. This is a national crisis almost beyond description and people say they are alive only because of " the hand of God."
This week as Monks and then ordinary people in Burma took to the streets in their thousands calling out 'Democracy, Democracy' in the face of the police and soldiers, we can't help but wonder why something similar does not happen here. The chant could be shorter and even simpler than in Burma and it could just be: 'Food, food,' but without leadership it seems as elusive as ever.
I end with a story about a man who is epileptic and visited the local government hospital for his regular check-up this week. It took four hours before he was seen by a nurse who scribbled in his book that this was a known case and that the hospital pharmacy should dispense his prescription of 90 phenobarb tablets at no charge - as they usually do. This major provincial government hospital had no phenobarb however so the man went to the biggest and busiest pharmacy in the town. They said the phenobarb would cost 1.2 million dollars - this is ten times more than the man's government stipulated minimum monthly wage. I offered to help and took the prescription to another pharmacy. The exact same tablets cost 250 thousand dollars - nearly five times cheaper. When I gave them to the man, his eyes shone with tears and he thanked me - 'I thought I would have to die' he said. What a way to live, and to die.
Until next week, thanks for reading,
love cathy.

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