My liberal bleeding heart is bleeding horribly for Zimbabwe. This horror story in the New York Times describes the explosion of the cholera epidemic and the resultant death, in one instance only, of a family of five children in a matter of hours. It's all too reminiscent of the book I have just finished reading, "The Ghost Map", by Steven Johnson, a gripping account of the 1854 attack of the disease in London's Soho district. (I wrote first about this book a couple of days ago, while I was still just one-third into it. It did not disappoint. A great read, full of relevance for today's world, its cities, and its future.)
As Johnson's book makes clear, the cause, course and cure of cholera have been well known for over one hundred and fifty years. Why, then, this outbreak? It can be attributed to one man, the criminal Robert Mugabe, whose cruelty, greed and incompetence, along with his stubborn refusal to step aside, have led to the ruin of a once thriving African nation. The schools and health systems are no longer functioning, the nation's economy is in chaos. The Times report notes that "Inflation officially hit 231 million percent in July, but John Robertson, an independent economist in Zimbabwe, estimates that it has now surged to an astounding eight quintillion percent--that is an eight followed by eighteen zeros." The cholera epidemic is caused and rapidly spread by the disintegration of a sanitation infrastructure that is no longer capable of preventing the overflow of human waste into the drinking water system. Budidiro, the Harari suburb that is the epicenter of the outbreak, sound eerily like that SoHo district in mid-Victorian days.
It's a disgrace--and, worse, an entirely preventable disgrace. The Times reports that 780 people have already died unnecessarily, and tens of thousands more infected. One half the country's population of 12 million is at risk.
What's to be done? Does the rest of the world sit by and watch as this new tragedy unfolds? It appears that even Mugabe's military is showing signs of revolt--a glimmer of light on the horizon. But as yet the police remain powerful and loyal, and Mugabe's hold on power is not seriously challenged. It seems to me vital that the nations of the world find some more effective means than the United Nations to intervene in situations of this kind. The saddest thing of all, however, is that nations can't rally to a common cause cause even when the situation is dire--witness the obstructive positions of Russia and China in the Sudan, where genocide appears to continue unabated.
I'm one person. It galls me to feel powerless. I feel foolishly inadequate, sending wishes for goodwill, sanity and peace as I sit comfortably in meditation. I can send money, and did so this morning via the "causes" opportunity afforded by my Facebook page. I can even ask you to join me. Here's the Save the Children site. And here are some other sites where you can contribute specifically to the fight against the cholera epidemic. Please help...