Monday, March 24, 2008

Five Dollars

I am the one who is sitting the hammock as the morning sun warms the air. I am the one enjoying the breeze, the birds singing and a great book on this Easter Monday.

The hammock, where I read after work.

In the distance I hear what sounds like the neighbour tapping a nail...I continue reading. The tapping continues and eventually I hear "Mr. Marke" very faintly, I look over and see that someone at the gate is looking through the small hole and sees me. I hear it again, "Mr. Marke", I now recognize its Mr. Ngulube at the gate and its locked. I spent last Saturday with him and another co-worker (Thomas). We walked across town, met Thomas's family and spent a couple hours at the bar where they treated me to a couple of beers.

After he is in the gate he asks if Barb is home, she is the wife to Dan Ball, who is the owner of Forest Fruits. Barb is a trained nurse and is famous among the employees for helping them out with heath problems. Propolys and tea tree oil are the two medicines she has sent my way in the past 3 weeks of living here.

He then explains to me that his wife is pregnant, and going into labour. I realize the severity of the visit and quicken my pace as we walk to the house. I wonder if he is going to ask Barb to deliver the baby. My mind races. He calmly and politely speaks with Barb as I wait inside to give them privacy. She then fills me in that in Zambia, you must bring your own supplies with you to the health clinic. Supplies like - a razor blade to cut the chord, something to tie the chord, a garbage bag, gloves...and a diaper for the baby.

If you don't show up with these things, the clinic will likely turn you away.

Imagine, the fragile state a pregnant women is in...let alone the new life that is in the balance.

My sister in Calgary is pregnant now also. This will be her second. The amount of money and time that goes into preparing for delivering a baby is astounding, it is something that is made a high priority in Canada. Giving birth is just one component.

I go back out to speak with Mr. Ngulube and I ask him how many children he has. A very big smile grows as he says, this will be our fifth. Immediately afterwards he felt it was necessary to justify this if I didn't understand why he had so many. He said "you white people have been blessed, all your children survive. Here we must have many because not all of them live". I explained to him that I understood perfectly, and in fact one of my siblings did not make it through birth, so I have just two sisters instead of three.

"Life is raw here." Barb says to me after he leaves. "Imagine what it's like in rural areas where women have to walk 5 km to even have a chance of getting turned away at the clinic"

I am now the one that feels a bit sick in my stomach as I consider the money in my back pocket. I have $60 american dollars and the equivalent to $15 in Zambian Kwacha's. I can't help but imagine how these couple of pieces of paper can so easily be translated into helping lives here. The difference between a new baby and a miscarriage is sometimes a matter of a few supplies that may cost a dollar or two in Canada, and maybe a cab ride to the clinic which is likely to cost a couple of dollars. In total, five dollars would increase the chances of success. The money in my pocket is enough for 15 women in labour.

Trying to make some sense of it all.

I looked up some stats.

% of population under the age of 15
Zambia --> 50%
Canada --> 18%

Life expectancy
Zambia --> 35 years
Canada --> 80 years

Infant Mortality Rate (# of children who don't make it to age of 5)
Zambia --> 98.4/1000
Canada --> 4.8/1000 (ie. 20 times more likely to make it to the age of 5)

I read about the demographic transition, and maybe I now better understand what is happening and possibly what needs to happen to improve the situation.

As I type I realize Mr. Ingulube may be just arriving at a clinic with his wife since he likely walked the 40 minutes back to his house before heading out with his wife....

1 comment:

mwenda said...

Wow, good story, my name is Mwenda Ball and I am Dan balls daughter, I'm really enjoying reading your stories. I too once read in that hammock after my work and chore were done hahaha. I'm really happy I stumbeled onto your blog.