COLONIALISM, MODERNITY AND THE MEDICAL CLIMATE
Black Africa is the poorest part of the world by far. When African governments are not openly plundering their nations economy, they are simply incompetent. The argument that colonization accounts for Africa's poverty is so easily refuted that it should have gone out of currency long ago. That it has not can be attributed only to the apparently endless capacity of whites to accept arguments that paint them as villain. To believe that colonization thwarted the economic development of Africa is to believe that indigenous societies were on their way towards prosperity but were brutally shoved off course by Europeans. Every year, thousands of Africans die of starvation. In bad years, hundreds of thousands starve. Even in tropical parts of Africa untouched by famine, as many as one third of all children die before the age of five. One in a hundred births kills the mother. Malaria, sleeping sickness, hepatitis, leprosy, and AIDS are rampant. Nevertheless, the population of Africa grows faster than that of any other region of the world. The total number of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that an average woman from a developed world will have is 14. The equivalent figure for the average African woman is approximately 258! Despite the ravages of disease, starvation, and inter-tribal warfare, Africa's population increases by more than three percent a year. At that rate, populations can double in 20 years. When most of Africa became independent, the region exported food. Now, it devours more than $1 billion a year in Western food aid, and thousands still starve.
It is possible to argue that Africans might have been better off if they had been left entirely alone. This is to take a romantic view of the disease, tribal warfare, slavery, and ignorance that were widespread on the continent. Moreover, no African group that has glimpsed the possibilities of Western progress has opted to return to purely African primitivism. This suggests that Africans themselves would rather have the benefits of Western technology than do without them. Given that people naturally yearn for medical advance and material progress, colonization was an obvious and striking benefit to Africa. The benefits are particularly clear in any comparison of those parts of Africa that were colonized with those that were not. In fact, African societies south of the Sahara that had not had contact either with Europeans or with Middle Eastern traders showed no signs of modern development. No precontact African society had devised a written language or had discovered the wheel. None had a calendar, or built multi-story buildings. No African had learned how to domesticate animals. The smelting of iron was widespread, as was fire-hardened pottery, but the continent did not produce anything that could be called a mechanical device. It was trade with Europeans that introduced modernity to Iron Age Africa. Far from hobbling and holding the continent back, colonization laid the foundations for whatever evidence of economic progress can now be found in Africa. It was Europeans who built roads and rail lines, introduced piped water, schools and telecommunications, and built national administrations. Nothing suggests that Africans would have achieved any of this on their own. There is no question but that life for Africans improved steadily under colonization. Africans had no concept of the biological origins of disease, and attributed personal misfortunes to the work of evil spirits. Slavery was widely practiced, and deeply rooted in Africa long before the arrival of Europeans. There is no reason to think that, left to themselves , Africans would have risen from the primitive conditions in which Europeans found them. The European slave trade, though unquestionably harmful to Africa, was hardly the depopulating scourge it is often made out to be. When the 15th century Portuguese began sailing down the coast, they met long-established slave traders keen to sell off surpluses. Europeans almost never went on slaving expeditions into the interior. They bought slaves from dealers, which mean that other Africans first enslaved slaves taken from Africa.
For any knowledgeable African who has looked into the question as to 'What lessons can Africa learn from colonization? There seems to be little doubt that Africans have brought misery upon themselves. Whether it be in Africa, Haiti, or Washington (DC) , Africans show little evidence of an ability to organize and run a modern economy. Just as economic refugees from Africa working in developed countries like Europe or United States in which they may form a majority community have failed to exercise authority, so have Africans desolated a continent bursting with riches. Of course, it is not permissible to conclude that this is because of natural, genetic handicaps from which blacks suffer, so anti-white arguments inevitably rush in to fill the explanatory void. Blacks the world over, whether they live only among themselves or among people of other races, are said to lead lives of failure and misery only because whites have oppressed them in the past and continue to oppress them in the present. It makes no difference that this explanation falls apart under scrutiny. It is the only one that is permitted because the alternative does not conform to current political dogma. There can be no pleasure in saying so, but the facts point to one conclusion. Whether in Africa or America, Haiti or Great Britain, blacks are poor because they are, for the most part, incapable of lifting themselves from poverty. Africa is poor, just as Harlem is poor, because it is populated by Africans.
The colonial bogeymen still lives but corrupted P.I.G (People In Government) like in 'Animal farm' whose minds and hearts were accustomed to a very simple way of life have become acquainted with a manner of living that involves an endless array of fascinating possessions. The effect is portrayed in a selection from the African poem “Song of Lawino.” In which a newly educated man returning from town had just brought a clock home to his village wife who had never seen one before. She said: “To me the clock is a great source of pride. It is beautiful to see. And when visitors come, they are highly impressed!” Yes, this new “toy” seemed to add glitter and excitement, as well as prestige, to her life. Who of us has not seen and then desired some new gadget that could make our life more enjoyable? However, all the benefits of modern technology come with “price tags” they cost money, sometimes plenty of it! The question each person must face is, How much am I willing to sacrifice to have that item? Enjoying certain benefits of this modern age may even require that you sacrifice personal values. This has been happening, not merely in Africa, but worldwide. Of let Africa has had a spill of investment from the east and like fire from the dragon weak governments have been rendered toothless to talk of unsafe work environment and low wages that such investors have had to offer to its citizenry. Like all invaders and investors in the past, they come with gifts or donations like the 'fire stick' that benefits a few of our leaders who soon becomes ensnared to the plunder of our resources living less development than what they claim to plough out hence as a continent we are left with dependence syndrome with a 'Golden Age' dream that does not come to fruition.
Perhaps one disservice that many African governments do to their people is to deny that AIDS is ravaging their countries. Though no one knows for sure, a quarter of the adult population may be infected, but the government officially reports that which shows that the situation is under control. A relevant reference is an incidence at some central hospital in one capital city within Africa; it was observed that AIDS was killing more children than any other disease. Still, government authorities refused to recognize the problem or intensify dissemination of public health information. When criticized for its silence, the state-controlled press complained about "the slurs on Africans brought about by the West's obsessive determination to blame AIDS on Africa." In the meantime, Africans continue to infect each other at a great rate. For reasons that are not entirely understood, many Africans seem to get AIDS mostly through heterosexual intercourse. Rich Africans are often very promiscuous, so the millions who will be dying over the next decade will be from the upper classes. One doctor estimates that 80 percent of some of Africa's best-paid men are infected. AIDS could put an end to Africa's rocketing population growth and even cause a serious decline in economic growth. Just as Western governments and aid agencies refuse to criticize African dictators for fear of being called "racist," the Western press is squeamish about reporting African savagery. The controversial zoonosis of HIV from chimpanzees to humans and the assumptions that it is a condition engineered in history by white doctors with intention to wipe out the black race shows that we're dealing with a kind of contemporary apocalypse with a number of factors involved in the spread. AIDS, in turn, has exacerbated other problems. The conditions that prevail in some lands in Africa and in other parts of the world where AIDS is gaining ground are often related to the following;
Morality - As sexual contact is the primary means of HIV infection, a lack of clear moral standards evidently promotes the spread of the disease. Many feel, though, that it is not practical to advocate sexual abstinence for the unmarried. To simply warn teens to abstain from sex has not worked very well simply because teens are bombarded daily with sexual images of what they should look like and how they should behave. This analysis appears to be confirmed by the conduct of young people. For example, a survey in one country indicated that about a third of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 had engaged in sexual intercourse. Rape and child defilement has also been rampant that it overtakes every other health risk posed to this country's women and, increasingly, to its children as well. These acts are committed seemingly in perpetuation of the myth that an HIV carrier who rapes a virgin will be cured (which is not true). Otherwise the fact is that AIDS has been a big boost for witch doctors, since Europeans admit they can't cure it. Another common treatment is to sacrifice a goat or sheep and, with the proper incantations, transfer the disease to the carcass. Then it is dragged out to a busy street corner, where a passerby will find it and get the disease in place of the patient which is also not true.
Sexually transmitted disease (STD)-There is a high rate of STDs in the region. In some African Medical Journal it was noted that the presence of an STD increases the risk of HIV-1 infection 2- to 5-fold.
Poverty- Many countries in Africa are battling poverty and this creates a climate favorable to the spread of AIDS. What may be considered basics in developed countries are not available in most developing lands . Large communities have no electricity and no access to clean drinking water. In rural areas roads are inadequate or nonexistent. Many residents suffer from malnutrition, and medical facilities are minimal.
AIDS has a negative impact on business and industry. As more employees become infected, mining companies are feeling the effects of lost production. Some are considering ways to automate and mechanize certain operations in order to compensate. It was estimated at one platinum mine in the year 2000 that the number of AIDS cases among employees nearly doubled, and about 26 percent of the workers were infected hence production was adversely affected.
A sad outcome of AIDS is the large number of children who become orphans when their parents succumb to the disease. In addition to losing parents and financial security, these children must endure the stigma attached to AIDS. Extended family members or communities are often either too poor to give assistance or are not willing to do so. Many orphans drop out of school. Some turn to prostitution and thus increase the spread of the disease. A number of countries have established government or private programs to give assistance to these orphans.
Ignorance-A large number of those infected with HIV are unaware of it. Many do not want to be tested because of the stigma connected with the disease. “People with, or suspected of having, HIV may be turned away from health care services, denied housing and employment, shunned by their friends and colleagues, turned down for insurance coverage or refused entry into foreign countries,” observed a press release of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Some have even been murdered when their HIV status was discovered.
Culture- In numerous African cultures, women are often not in a position to question their partners about extramarital affairs, to refuse sexual contact, or to suggest safer sexual practices. Cultural beliefs often reflect ignorance and denial about AIDS. For example, the illness may be blamed on witchcraft, and help may be sought from witch doctors. However, the trouble with juju is that you never know when it might be turned against you
Inadequate medical facilities- Already limited medical facilities have been overtaxed even more as a result of AIDS. Two large hospitals report that over half the medical inpatients is HIV positive. The principal medical officer of one hospital once said that his wards operate at 140-percent capacity. At times, two patients have to share a bed, and a third one will be on the floor underneath it! Tragic as the situation is in Africa, indications are that it could get worse as we have not yet reached the peak of the epidemic.
It is evident that in some countries efforts are being made to deal with the disease as AIDS is a health-care catastrophe in itself. In the world's developing nations, reportedly home to about 93 percent of those infected with HIV, there are additional problems in confronting the disease. Many of these countries are too poor to provide even basic health-care services. Even if the new drugs were available and for the most part it seems clear that most Africans are not going to afford the price of treatment as it would cost more than many people earn in a lifetime. Consequently, the developing world has had to succumb to buy antiretro viral drugs at a very expensive price and yet that is just a fraction of the cost as it does not include the lost productivity of the victim and those who are taking time off from work or school to care for the patient in his/her chronic state. Apart from the cost of buying these lifesaving drugs which has led to the lack of drugs supplies to cure or prevent HIV infection, other factors work against suppressing the disease. One of these is that many people are not willing to change their life-style but are willing to risk infection. Moreover this just proves for sure that this world lacks discipline, true, but does not want to be disciplined in righteousness. It lacks the capacity to govern itself, but rejects God to rule over it. It lacks the good sense to control its prodigious power, but does not want the wisdom that could control it. It cries and longs for peace, but madly prepares for war. It professes great piety and godliness, but wants none of God or his Word. Its educators have either minimized or totally ignored mankind's spiritual welfare.
Yet, let us assume that a new, inexpensive drug were developed that would actually cure the disease. Would such a drug reach all those who need it? Probably not, each year according to the United Nations Children's Fund, “About four million children die from five diseases that can be prevented by inexpensive, existing vaccines.” This consolidates the fact that economics also play a role in research. There exists a low level of commitment from private industry. This may be blamed on fears that a vaccine would not bring in profits, since most of it would be marketed in less-developed countries. Despite the difficulties, researchers have continued to investigate several approaches in the quest for a successful vaccine, cure or preventive tool. At present, however, it seems unlikely that a vaccine will be produced soon. When a promising vaccine does emerge from the laboratory and then follows the laborious, expensive, and potentially risky task of testing it on humans. Meanwhile, the best strategy is prevention. For many diseases, there are two options: You can either prevent them or perhaps cure them. With HIV, there is no such choice. It can be prevented, but at present it cannot be cured. Why take risks that endanger your life? Prevention is certainly better than no cure. For those already afflicted a positive attitude is just as important as access to medication. We know of people who have lived with HIV for 10 to 15 years and who have never taken a medication. Medications are beneficial, but healing is much broader than putting chemicals in your body. It involves attitude, social support, spirituality, and nutrition. The question as to whether there is any reason to believe that AIDS will one day be vanquished? Is not for our colonial masters to provide answers to but for an innovative self-sufficient Africa to create an enabling environment to have that cure found using our own resources as only then are we going to be assured that most of our indigenous people are going to benefit. Africa still struggles for total emancipation but new slavery of thinking that solutions for its problems will come from the west or east is a fallacy yet to be conceptualized.
JONES H. MUNANG'ANDU (author)
Motivational speaker, health commentator &
Email; [email protected]
Skype id; jones muna
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