Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Silent Harvest of Death

Democratic Republic of Congo, a country the size of western Europe, there is an acute lack of medical care. Functioning public hospitals and clinics are rare - and those that do exist are in an appalling condition. Yet there are Congolese doctors who recall that in the 1960s the Kinshasa General Hospital was one of the best on the continent. Patients would be referred there from South Africa. Now , the current head of the accident and emergency department at the Kinshasa General, Dr Mbwembwe Kabamba, says he has no medical stocks at all.

"I don't have any bandages," Dr Kabamba said, "my cupboard is bare...I have all these people, poor people, and they are waiting for treatment. Some of them will die for lack of an operation. That is the reality...I am watching a lot of people dying and it hurts me. These are innocent people, and the government is there with its big villas and cars. I cannot accept that."

The International Rescue Committee which estimates that over the past decade an astonishing total of 5.4 million Congolese have died from easily preventable causes.

That is 5.4 million deaths over and above the "normal" mortality figure that would be expected in a poor African nation.

Only a tiny proportion - a fraction of 1% - died from violence. Most died for mundane reasons associated with malnutrition, simple diseases or childbirth.

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