Today is Wednesday and Ida has gone with the car to an Aids Relief Meeting in Lusaka. Just after she left, Mubita broke out in a rash that looked like chickenpox! After lunch we went down to the OPD where Mr Sully the Clinical Officer confirmed the suspicion. We usually do our weekly trip to Livingstone for supplies on a Wednesday but today we are confined to barracks. Mubi is feeling a wee bit ‘hingy’ so is sitting on my knee helping me type this!
This is a good opportunity for an update on recent events locally and nationally. Ida has been busy with Dr Ozzie Reynold’s eye-team who have undertaken 47 eye-cataract operations in the past week. Before that we had visits from Albemarle Church who came with former PCUSA Mission Partners Joyce and Richard Lambert. They were followed by Goldsboro, both of these Churches are a blessing to many with their faithful support of the Formula Programme.
We also enjoyed meeting up with some good old friends from Hickory on two separate occasions. Ellie and Conway came for the American Board Meeting and Jo Brenda, Cathie and Jim came with a group of student nurses and supplied artificial limbs to those attending the clinic and in need. The most moving time was when a woman from the rural areas got her limbs and learned to walk for the first time. Other patients who had received limbs in the past came to have them checked, adjusted or replaced too.
Renovations are underway at the hospital; over US$300 000 is being spent to improve the toilets, ablutions and wards. The patients have been moved to the previously-cleared TB and Infectious Diseases Wards while this work is underway. A Zambian contractor, who worked on the new Levy (Mwanawasa) Mall has been engaged to undertake this.
Work has also started on the new UCZ Mwandi Church building being constructed on the site of the original 1913 church. It is interesting that this is happening 100 years to the year of the inauguration of the Sesheke (Mwandi) Church on 25 December 1913. This brick Church was constructed by John Roulet and was dedicated in the presence of Prince Litia with a congregation of 400. Others in attendance were Evangelist Josefe Masupa and the teacher Daniel.
At Sikuzu, the two staff latrines are presently under construction and should be complete and functioning by the end of June. A preliminary visit was made to look at the requirements and the necessary work to undertake the digging of the well to secure pure drinking water for the school and community. Once the surface water recedes some more we will be able to reach the location of the well which is still underwater. It was good that Greg was able to see the work being undertaken and speak to those involved when he was over for the American Board Meeting too.
Last Saturday Rob, Fiona’s father and I did a tour of the hand pumps located at the Diptank, Makanga, Namango and the 3 pumps at Mabumbu. All registered unacceptably high levels of salinity, which if drunk continually over time could impair kidney function and lead to increased cases of High Blood Pressure. Ironically the best and purest drinking water came from the river at Kasaya!
Nationally the latest major controversy to hit the headlines and cause UNZA students to demonstrate was the removal of tax-payer funded subsidies to maize, fuel and fertilizer. The main rationale for their abolition was that the Government was spending, comparatively speaking, huge sums and an unacceptably high proportion of the budget on subsidizing these items supposedly for the benefit of the poor but in reality those mainly benefiting from the maize subsidy were the millers, who have racketeered with their prices for years. The subsidized fertilizer price was enjoyed mainly by commercial farmers. None of our local subsistence farmers, here to my knowledge, were able to regularly avail themselves of this commodity. Even at a subsidized price there are few here that could afford it. The most commonly-used fertilizer here is cattle manure. The subsidized fuel supported, in the main the transport industry, and those fortunate enough to own a vehicle. These vested interests combined and have managed to make a lot of noise as can be imagined, over this move away from subsidies.
The Government says it wants to focus on putting in place direct cash transfers to low income households and cutting taxes. The removal of these subsidies and the saved revenue can be used for many other pressing social and infrastructural development projects in sectors like health, education, power supply and roads. It can also be invested in capital projects and used to reduce domestic and external debt. If done as promised, this is probably a much better way to tackle poverty, meet 2015 MDG (Millennium Development Goals) and grow the economy for the common good rather than through these subsidies which inadvertently benefited the already well-off.