Call to war on antibiotic vigilance

On Monday this week, I met a childhood friend who dug into memories of our stay in Blantyre’s Chinyonga Township some two decades ago.

We sojourned into the past, precisely around the days of plunging into some dirty dam in risky playful swim sessions.

The dam was behind Shelter Club, the present day Scalla’s Café, a stone throw away from Kwacha Roundabout. It was technically a hole in the earth dug by a blast by a company excavating for quarry stone.

The onset of rains every year was, therefore, a promise of a happy season ahead as rainwater filled the dump and opened to us a chance to perfect our swimming skills.

That the rain water came with all sorts of a nasty harvest from upstream did not matter at all.

Again, that the water would within two months of the end of the rainy season stagnate to a rotting stench was no reason to grow goose bumps.

The water was something to die for. So, as the allure of the dam shot to as far as Chitawira, Soche East, Naperi, Chichiri and Kanjedza, we still took it that Chinyonga’s being the nearest to the ‘treasure’ meant we owned total rights to the ‘decaying waters.’

A battle for supremacy would, therefore, not be so hard to start if ‘intruders’ dared the ‘hosts.’

Crude as the dam’s floor was, with sharp edges of stone dangerously pointing upwards, a heavy dive into the water or a casual attempt to feel the floor with one’s feet would guarantee them a nasty cut.

The friend, now a doctor, reminded me how at one occasion I knocked off from my swimming lessons with a nasty gash to my forehead, courtesy of a lazily calculated dive into the shallows of the dam.

On that dreaded occasion, this friend challenged me to a dive and the rules were set – no ‘swimming aid’ and the winner would be the one who plunged and swum further from the bank.

In the haste of things, I slipped and ended up in the rugged shallows, with a cut to the forehead.

Taught by the wisdom of youth, the friend applied mud to the wound to stop the bleeding. A couple of days later, the wound got infected and I had to go on some antibiotics to heal.

For years now, I have usually mocked the friend to never ever repeat his dose of bush medicine on his unsuspecting clients. We always have a good laugh over that.

Now, on Monday, I discussed with the friend a planned march in commemoration of the World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

He lectured me on its importance; the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating bacterial resistance.

If not checked in time, he said, such resistance would soon end in even the common infections killing those who carry them.

Olo kabala kotukusira ngati kako kaja, kakhoza kupha! [even infected wounds as small as yours was, would kill!]

We laughed at his example.

To think of life without the magic healing properties of antibiotics shocked me to a shiver.

So, on Wednesday morning, as I looked into the mirror with my hand to the scar on my forehead, I remembered the friend’s ‘lecture on the growing bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

I rushed to join the march. For this Antibiotic Awareness Week, 12 to 18 November, I call you to the battle front. We can save mankind! n

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