OpEd, Politics

We, the forgotten, praying yet for another day 

I didn’t know that it was a dream. I nearly wept when I woke up from this nightmare.

To begin my adventure, you need to put down whatever you are doing and embark on an endless journey with me. Somewhere in the middle, you need to expect accidents and some kind of blockade.

It was still morning when we arrived at a certain village.

The village was dusty and dirty at the same time. The rain had beaten the soil a few days before our arrival and the fields were ready for cultivation, but people were not ready.

There was insecurity and you could get killed if you chose to take that risk. Most of the inhabitants of this small village have got fertile land and they can supply those in the city. But the security situation is dire there. They now depend on their relatives in the city. The city too has no jobs.

Most of the young people who are in the city only steal to support their families back home. The government in the city also amassed public funds to support their families abroad.

We walked some miles, and I was shocked by the poverty these people are going through. In a real sense, these people are not poor. Some of their relatives who hail from that village are the top government officials. At times, one would wonder and question who is really leading this land.

The homes were scattered and neighbors never talked to each other. They were not united. There were no men in that village, few of them, the survivors of war, I was told, had gone to the city to look for greener pastures. The others have been killed. The few young men we got were less than 50, but they were not around.

They have gone somewhere to bury some of their men who were killed the day before. We came to a certain hut, all the clothing and a bag of sorghum were placed under the sun to dry. The huts had got a lot of holes and they leaked whenever it rained. This family was so poor that I got down on my knees and prayed.

The family members were about five, four daughters and their mother. They were not in school. The village has one school but teachers are not paid well there. So they don’t go to class. The head of this family was a habitual drunkard. This is not the only family he has.

He has three more wives and other 7 children. The women are the ones who labour daily to put food on the table for their children. These children had no future, they were entrapped in abject poverty, and they are going to pass it down to their children.

The elder daughter was amazing, but she was crippled. I asked her what she wanted to become in the future, and she said, happily, that she had always wanted to become a lawyer. That dream was possible for her because she was a child but it was impossible for me. It was a hit-and-miss dream but the possibility of hitting that dream was very slim. I think she had not smiled for years; this was her first time and maybe the last time to be happy after seeing us. The margin of survival is extraordinarily narrow there.

One woman we met in front of her mud hut had 7 orphaned children.

Their father was killed as a soldier, but the saddest part of this story is that his body has not been found. The children live each day with hopes that their dad would come but it has been eight years now. Scavengers might have savoured him.

The family has been struggling to survive and it has never been easy. We got them cooking, this was the only meal in days and they were not so sure if they would get another meal. The mother pointed us to withered crops, they worked hard to plant those crops but that is how the story ended.

When her husband died, he left behind a plot of land, perhaps a half hectare but a certain man took it and they were evicted. This man was fairly rich. He had money and worked with the government. Her tears were so hot and plentiful. This is the norm here. The strong use their power to rob the weak. I was told that the inequality between the poor and rich grows daily.

There are no rich in this place but there are men who come from the city to grab land. I was shown graves of people who, after refusing to hand their lands to grabbers, consequently died as a result. Another old grandma greeted us. She was weak and poorly dressed. Her son had been in the city after completing his studies and it has been years without getting a job.

She was in poor health but had a farm; this is the farm she used to pay the tuition fees for her son. This time, her days are numbered, she needs something good to eat and better medical attention but the son is still struggling to look for a job. He is also advancing in age and should get married but is this worth it when you cannot feed yourself!

Sometimes things could really go bad for this young man in the city, and it would be the old mother in the village to send her hard-earned money to the son in the city from the sale of her farm produce. But this time, the rain had not been plentiful. This year, because of the drought, she will get almost nothing.

In this village, people live by the mercy of God. In most cases, you don’t know if you will get through the day or not. The health system is not only poor; it is down on its belly. The woman we met with a child on her back had a sad but interesting story to tell.

She had carried this child for about ten kilometres to a community hospital. The hospital had no drug, even quinine, antimalarial drugs. Of course, there is a local church organization that used to supply the hospital with few drugs, but the drugs end up being sold expensively by the doctors because they are not being paid.

It was yet another sad morning as we heard cries from the nearby hut. A young boy had passed on because his mother could not afford to buy quinine. This drug is less than SSP 5000. We met this boy two days before his demise. He was about 12 years old but he looked like a 7-year-old child after years of being stunted by continued malnutrition.

He was the only child to his mother, though the mother cried bitterly, she was also relieved because it was never easy looking after a boy. If there were a market for children in this village, many families would have sold their children. It was already evening and the village square was empty, 6 pm, is the time to go to bed.

You don’t come out in the middle of the night until 7 am in the morning. There are bandits who move at night with guns. They also take children. This village was really a hell but one thing that vividly sticks in my mind is the suffering there in a country of plenty. It was time now to go back to the city, as we proceeded, we met some women, each with a different story.

Their sons were killed and those who remain fight for survival. I wanted to console them that all would be well but I woke up from the sleep and realized it was just a dream.


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