07 February, 2008

Poverty is Expensive

These words were told to me not long after my arrival in Zambia. The truth of them is just beginning to dawn on me. It costs the poor an enormmous amount to live.

Let me explain. I have come to realise that if you are poor, you are not able to have the resources to do things correctly in the first place. I have been trying to get tradespeople to undertake work around our compound. I cannot get an established trade company - they cost far too much. I have to settle for a single person tradie. I know the job will not be done as well as the registered company with hi-tech supports, bank overdrafts, insurance and appropriately trained staff. All I can afford are skilled single operators who have no capital. So I have to buy their equipment and materials they will use for them to be able to start the work.

However, the job will be done to a price. That we could not afford high quality materials, nor that it will not be done perfectly the first time, means it is going to have to be done over and over again. It won't last as well as a properly done piece of work. No fault of the single person tradesperson. They are too poor to have capital behind them.

So our roof leaks - it was never built properly in the first place. We spend a fortune on repairs - we may have paid for a quality roof 5 times over by the time the cost of all the repairs are added.

Now think of the individual poor person living in a country like Zambia. They are too poor to see a doctor, to get early diagnosis, or take preventative measures. Malaria is rife now as the rains ease a little and what was running water now is formed in pools and puddles without movement. Ideal mosquito breeding ground. I can afford to take preventative medicines. But most can't. So people are coming down with severe malaria. For the older peole they almost have a certain immunity. But the very young and infants do not have that immunity. They are at risk. No mosquito nets, no prevatative medicines, no sprays. Can't afford them. But sooner or later, they will require expensive hospitalisation and treatment.

Poverty is expensive!

Chikankata Hospital is engaged in reserach with a USA University on early intervention with Malaria. By having community health workers move out into villages and diagnose malaria early they are trying to reduce the incidence of severe cases. Early detection means esaier and less expensive teratment. Please support initiatives such as this.

John
Lusaka, Zambai

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