March was not a good month in Ndindiza last year. I hadn’t rained since the first week in January and the land was dry. The harvest was over two weeks after it had begun. I was told by the locals that it was a curse – the medicine men were fighting and therefore the rains did not come that year. “But,” the village leader told me, “Next year will be different. We are resolving the conflict and next year it will rain.”
And did it ever.
Mocuba, in general, gets a lot more rain than Ndindiza. I used to get so excited when it rained in my old village. I would put out buckets if it was drizzling to see if I could get a couple of liters of rain water to drink. In Mocuba, the water pours out of the sky by the bucketfuls. And this year, with the cyclone and tropical storms, there has been much more rain than usual.
So, listening to the rain last night, I pondered mysterious nature of rain water and how dependent we are on this seemingly trivial substance. It is great that it rains because it helps produce good harvest and fills the wells with water; however there are problems associated to the heavy rains.
One problem is the destruction of houses – particularly to the grass roofs. Another is the saturation of the farmlands does harm some of the plants which grow low to the ground. Finally, and most problematic, is the fact that mosquitoes flourish after heavy rains. The amount of malaria in Mozambique right now is extremely high. The hospital in Mocuba has run out of the medication which is used to treat the life threatening disease and there is no back-up plan.
Because there is no real competition in the marketing of anti-malarial drugs, the cost of medication to treat malaria in a private pharmacy is not affordable to most Mozambicans. The plant, Artemisia, which is a large component of the medication, is hardly grown in Mozambique. It is a difficult plant to grow because it requires extremely fertile soil and constant watering. Even at the orphanage, we have not been able to sustain our Artemisia garden; however we are not giving up.
Malaria and HIV are top two causes of death in Mozambique. Artemisia is a very potent plant that can be used to treat both diseases because it is instrumental in boosting the immune system. Moringa, the “vitamin tree,” is also important for strengthening the body and preventing/treating anemia (both iron-deficiency and pernicious anemia).
Of course relying solely on medicinal plants to treat disease is not sufficient, but neither is relying on run-out-the-clock health-care workers or free medications which are often out of supply.
What really needs to be done is eradication of malaria, through massive yearly campaigns to spray houses, constantly filling up areas where stagnant water gathers, and possibly even helping people voluntarily relocate from areas of massive mosquito infestations. This would require some outside funding, but mostly community organization and volunteerism on the part of Mozambicans.
The same goes for controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Mozambique. Until major behavior change occurs in way that Mozambicans maintain their romantic relationships, the disease will continue to spread.
This week alone three funeral processions passed the orphanage. All three people were victims of AIDS. All three were teachers.
What kind of future does that leave for Mozambique?
Please continue to pray for the people of Mozambique. Pray that the youth see what is happening, take it to heart, and make good life decisions. Pray that the people will realize that they have the power and the responsibility to change what is happening.