“the town seemed to exist only for sickness and death”

Time has this story about the “most malarial town on earth,” Apac in Uganda. The pictures tell it all, life in Apac appears to be singularly harsh.

The story also reports that malaria steals away 1.3 percentage points off Africa’s annual growth rate. It is encouraging, though, to know that the fight to eradicate malaria is not yet lost because “the logistics of such a plan are less complex than they seem, because while malaria affects half the world’s countries, just seven — the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, southern Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda — account for two-thirds of all cases.”

As is the case with most failures on the Continent, failure to eradicate malaria can be attributed to bad leadership and state incapacity. Time reports:

What do these failures have in common? Bad government.

To paraphrase Achebe, the trouble with Africa is STILL simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the African character. There is nothing wrong with the African land or climate or water or air or anything else. The African problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership . . . . in the meantime, millions on the Continent continue to die of treatable illnesses while tens of millions more live like it’s still 1600.

sad sad story

A while back I posted something on Sierra Leone’s shocking maternal mortality stats. This week TIME magazine has this sad piece on Mamma Sessay, an 18 year old Sierra Leonean woman who died during childbirth. The images could have been a little bit more respectful (there is a little too much poorism involved for my liking) but the message gets home: Giving birth is still a most dangerous undertaking for the vast majority of women on the Continent.

Kudos to outfits like this one that work to save the lives of women on the Continent. Stories like Mamma’s are a grim reminder of how much still needs to be done to lower maternal mortality rates in the less developed regions of the world. Educating more women is the obvious long-term solution – statistics abound on how education decreases fertility and maternal mortality rates while increasing the quality of childcare. More urgently, however, is the need to improve pre-natal care and eradicate anachronistic cultural practices that allow men to marry 14 year old girls (the late Mamma was 14 when she got married).