Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Zambia: Corruption, Hospitals, and Bishops

Here in Minnesota, we sometimes say, "it could be worse."

Today, even with the occasional breaks with reality that America's leaders display, "it could be worse." We could be living in Zambia.
"The Catholic bishops of Zambia have challenged their government to stop persecuting and harassing journalists and media institutions perceived as holding divergent views.

"In a pastoral statement released after a full plenary meeting in Lusaka July 13-18, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Zambia urged the government to clamp down on violence against the media...."
(Catholic News Service)

Zambia: Not One of the World's Success Stories So Far

Zambia was called Northern Rhodesia until its independence in 1964. Like many African countries, it's had its ups, downs, and disasters as Africans sort out the Versailles nation-making debacle while catching up on a millennium or so of technological and economic development.

Zambia's 2001 presidential election seems to have been as contentious as Minnesota's recent congressional election - but some good came of it. President Levy Mwanawasa, despite or perhaps because of complaints about the election, launched an anticorruption investigation in 2002. That may not have been quite what his opponents wanted: a former Zimbabwean president and several others were found liable for $41,000,000 (USD). Mwanawasa was re-elected in 2006 in what appears to have been a free election. Then, in 2008, he died - rather abruptly.

Zambian Bishops Concerned About Money - And Hospitals

The Bishops are concerned about money. It's not, I think, because they're greedy. But hospitals take money to stay open - and funds that are supposed to go to Zambian hospitals don't always get there.
"...'Our experience with the government concerning funding for grant-aided health institutions has not been satisfactory,' the bishops said. 'Often funding meant for church-run health institutions is either delayed, or when it comes it is too little and its disbursement dependant on the good will of district officials.'

"Church-run hospitals and clinics, the bishops said, have been forced to close and some facilities have been forced to turn away patients and 'keep services to the barest minimum.'"
(Catholic News Service)
With that sort of government help, it's small wonder that a Zambian's life expectancy at birth is a little shy of 39 years. HIV infection rates of around 15% don't help, of course. Which is getting into a whole different set of topics.

It's More than Pocketing Hospital Funds

The bishops are concerned about other matters that the Zambian government should be addressing:
  • Government corruption
  • Safety issues in the mining industry
  • Ever-rising food prices
  • Regular power outages
And that's an abridged list.

The Zambian government does seem to be good at one thing, though: harassing reporters who don't say what Zambian leaders want them to.

No Time for Smugness

I think America is a pretty good place to live, and I'm glad that people in the news media aren't treated as badly here as they are in Zambia.

However, I doubt that any country's leaders are immune from the temptation to assume that criticism of their policies or ethics is the equivalent of treason. America has seen some bizarre examples of that sort of intolerance, with Ron Paul supporters, pro-life advocates, American veterans, and other 'dangerous' people getting identified as potential terrorists. (June 1, 2009, March 23, 2009, (Another War-on-Terror Blog, April 15, 2009))

I don't think America will see the return of McCarthyism - an effort to root out communists, real or imagined. I do think it's possible that people whose views are not the same as many of America's leaders today could be in for a rough time. (April 19, 2009)

This May Sound Corny - - -

It's strictly up to you, but I suggest praying for Zambia's bishops - and officials. One way or another, it sounds like they can use all the help they can get.

While you're at it, pray for America's leaders, too: for the same reasons. (July 2, 2009)

Related posts: In the news: Background:
A tip of the hat to CatholicNewsSvc, on Twitter, for the heads-up on their article.

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