They say all sorts of things

 

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Category: Health Care Date: 05 Mar 06

 

Early march. Our West Indian spring. The familiar shower of yellow and pink on hot, dusty days.

 

The critics: The ones who leave; the ones who dismiss us; the ones who look pityingly at us who stay. They say all sorts of things.

 

They say we are racially divided; that we are lazy; that we are never on time; that we donít deliver meetings, goods, calls, letters when we say we will; that we donít save; that we donít develop; that we continue to be a trans-shipment point for drugs whose victims are boys who sell, steal, kill and get shot for it.

 

They say we have gangs where the more you kill the higher the honour. They say our country is rotting from the inside because our utilities, our water pipes, our phone and electricity lines, all our public service systems are creaky, rusty, neglected; that it will all burst or come apart one day. They say we live one day at a time.

 

They grimly cite murder, kidnapping, arson.

 

We shrug. Maddeningly. As if we know something they donít. We do. They even say we are unpatriotic and partisan but we know this whole place is under our skin, football, savannah, ole talk, music, endless festivals, cricket, sunshine, carnival, bacchanal, roti, callaloo, crab and all.

 

We donít know how it happened. It just did. Blind love? So what? Love is blind.

 

And even those who have fled remember the quality of our addiction to our sweet country. They are not as indifferent as they would like us to think. They just need to remember the flare of the canary yellow flowers on our hills, the quickening of the pulse of air the week before Carnival, the reclaiming of childhood exuberance, of unselfconscious abandoning their bodies to the sun and music.

 

Have they forgotten our rivers? Yes, rivers of singing, dancing, humanity, tumbling, flowing along our streets?

 

In other countries, rivers of blood flow while they bomb and cutlass and land mine one another. Darfur, Iraq, Israel and 30 countries at war.

 

The critics are at it again. We hear them as we would a far-away voice. Now they are saying we are not prepared for a global pandemic in which anything from 7.4 to 150 million people could perish.

 

Them again? They said that about HIV/Aids, and havenít we survived although we have the second highest incidence of the virus after Sub-Saharan Africa?

 

Bird flu, they call it.

 

Their warnings to prepare for a worldwide endemic have turned increasingly urgent as the deadly H5N1 strain has spread to Japan, Nigeria, and at least ten European Union countries including France and the UK. US scientists are saying that only a military style approach can contain worldwide threat.

 

They are saying that an endemic is more likely now that itís spread from poultry and infected humans in seven countries: Vietnam, (42 deaths 93 cases) Thailand, (14 deaths 22 cases) Indonesia (18 deaths 25 cases) China, (eight deaths 12 cases) Turkey, (four dead 21 cases) Cambodia, (four deaths) Iraq, (three deaths).

 

They are saying only the prepared will survive. They tell us in news bulletins how First World countries prepare: ďThe French health minister Xavier Bertrand said on January 11 that the country will have spent $844m (£477m) between 2004 and 2006 on preparing for a flu pandemic.

 

ďGermany is stockpiling large quantities of Relenza as an alternative to Tamiflu. Its order, for 1.7 million units, reportedly exceeded the global sales of the drug for the past four years

ďThe British government is spending £200 million to buy 14.6 million doses of Tamiflu. It is also purchasing two metre treatments of bird flu vaccine to treat key workers.Ē

 

Scientists had been particularly worried about bird flu arriving in poor and developing countries. They say the consequences in poor, small, developing and unprepared countries could be ďtruly catastrophic.Ē

 

Nonsense. Our currency is happiness not vaccines. We flow with rivers of tinsel, pivot our hips with style in time to the rhythm of the music, believing we are safe. We donít exchange oil for vaccines, we exchange it for the music, the dance, the good times now.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur