Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Other Side of Paradise

My photos have shown stunning beaches, dazzling sunsets, and gorgeous people in beautiful fabrics but I have not described the constant balancing act between the perfect postcard image and what lies behind it.

Certain sights have become an expected background to daily life: children in ragged clothes in the streets during school hours, old men picking through garbage, giant potholes on busy roads, or girls and young women looking for potential clients at bars and nightclubs. 

I could write blog after blog quoting statistics on access to water and sanitation, healthcare services or the staggeringly high rates of malnutrition, food insecurity, maternal mortality, female illiteracy, and youth unemployment.  Or I could describe that the monthly rent for an oil company house is 47 times the monthly minimum wage for local Mozambicans.   

I am not trying to highlight the poverty; there is so much more to any place than how much money is in someone's pocket but I just do not want to portray that everything is cocktails and sunsets.  On a recent trip to the provincial hospital for a standard laboratory test, I was shocked back into the fact that it is not just beach life here.  The hospital was quite large and seemed clean but the line ups were huge (predominantly women and children) and I wondered what those outside of Pemba do for adequate health care.  In the smaller private clinic, you are not guaranteed a doctor there because of the shortage in the city for trained medical staff and the motto here is “do not get sick or hurt in Pemba”.  Easy for me to jump on a plane to Johannesburg, maybe not the woman who has walked to Pemba from a rural area with a sick baby. 
I do not want to place blame because I know that only by absolute luck am I in the position I am in and if I am honest, I play my own part in this gap of inequality and have no right to become self-righteous.  Nor do I want to close my eyes and either pretend that the world is doomed or that we should all hold hands under a rainbow and all will be cured.  But I do know that this is not how the world is supposed to be; life should not be a game of chance where your birthplace determines whether you go to university, whether you have a family doctor, or whether your body becomes something to sell. 
The moment these daily experiences do not cause me to lose a few moments of sleep at night is probably the moment I should pack my bags and head home.  Maybe change only comes at a very slow pace and only if we concentrate on closing this gap will we live in a world we all strive for and want to be part of.  I know the world is not fair and nothing is perfect but I know my life and the way I think about things will never be the same after living here. 

1 comment:

  1. Very good, Lise. Imagine....

    big hug from Bogota, Jos