Beyond a leaking roof

Watching the video of rains pouring into makeshift hospital wards at the country’s biggest referral hospital, Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) on Thursday, was heartbreaking. There they were, sick mothers and children, some very sick, still strapped to hospital beds as the water flooded beneath and some folks filmed for the world to watch yet again another scene of shame, and desperation.

This was another reminder of just how far, as a country, we have fallen; and how our leaders’ neglect is perpetuating a decay that continues to kill the poor, while our thieving elite play a game of chicken with our taxes.

This was a scene from the country’s biggest referral hospital—a facility so overburden that on its third and fourth floors, the sick sleep in open air verandahs—left at the mercy of excruciating adverse weather conditions.

This is the country’s biggest hospital, where the best of our doctors are based, and the most complicated of our diseases are referred to.

Seven years ago, a President collapsed in his majestic palace, far removed from the plebeians that often turn to KCH for treatment.

The State’s contingency for any presidential illness, one would imagine, would be to fly the old man (often they are men and old) to Singapore or Dubai for treatment. Only that this time circumstances couldn’t permit: When you suffer a cardiac arrest, like president Bingu wa Mutharika did on 6 April 2012, there is no time to charter a jet and negotiate some turbulence midair.

So our good president was smuggled to KCH, instead. Yes, the same dirty, filthy KCH. Attempts to alert the hospital that the President was coming failed as switch board numbers were out of reach—I mean not functioning.

But this is a hospital that is neglected, despite its mighty importance. Availability of drugs in our hospitals, thanks in part to pilferages, but, largely, due to poor funding, is something you don’t take for granted.

We lost a President that April. Often, I am told on the street, Bingu was one of the most visionary presidents this country has ever had.

Yet, even that President, and those that followed and preceded him, have failed again and again to improve service delivery, not only in hospitals, but in all spheres of public life.

They have allowed our institutions to decay. Go to KCH again, those rooms we saw in that video stink with an odour that will blow off your nose.

It’s no strange sight to see patients being carried up the stairways because the elevators are not working, so much so that at one point, some clever souls decided to start a business of carrying patients on their backs for a penny. Go to the hospital again, you will likely see babies in overcrowded beds saddled together like bags of sand.

And, yet, this is the supposed last health bastion for the 17 million lot of us; including our presidents. If this is happening at this hospital, let your mind wonder what on God’s earth is happening in remote areas, far removed from the capital?

So, KCH leakage might be butted away as an isolated incident that lasted a few hours; a mere glitch, or just a leakage, but it’s not.

It’s, yet, another symptom of a cancer that is eating this nation, both in psyche and flesh. It’s emblematic of how our country has failed to live up to the promises, first of independence; second, democracy.

So, yes, we need answers from the courts of what happened last May to our votes. But my curiosity over who is the legitimate President of this country doesn’t surpass my fat curiosity over why are we on the path of becoming a failed State despite enjoying a stable democracy for 25 years, despite all the foreign aid, all the arable land, that huge fresh water lake plus guaranteed rains a good part of the year. Why are our children suffering from malnutrition when we have no famine? Why are they learning under trees or in crumbling classrooms that fall over them?

Why are our politicians getting away with murder? And, importantly, how can we reverse this sad trend?

A report into the review of Malawi’s current development blueprint, Malawi Development Goals Strategy Three (MDGSIII) by Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn), says the country is getting almost all the money it needs to implement its development agenda and eradicate poverty. The paper considered both local revenue and donor funds. But all that money is making no difference. Why?

For sure we need a new ways of doing things. The incumbent President’s five year tenure and the ruling party’s history suggests the current team are not the right personnel to spearhead any transformation. Yet the story of our decay dates back to Bakili Muluzi’s lost decade and even last days of Kamuzu Banda’s dictatorship. And since Muluzi left power, we’ve had three presidents, and that, too, has made little difference.

So it can’t just be about the failures of the current Mutharika. Our malaise are much bigger than one president. The system is broken and it must be fixed. When the court case is over, that’s the conversation we must have.

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