Monday, November 13, 2006

Phantom Aid and Madonna



I visited Malawi early in the year 2000, crossing the Zambia border after a night of drunken revilry with locals in a popular shack-bar.
Malawi is one of the poorest, if not the poorest country in the world, and for the past few years anyhow, has been on the brink of famine. It is also the most dysfunctional African country I've ever visited, and by dysfunctional I mean not only the government but the entire population right down to the local level. It is a nation with an overabundance of beggers, where the words "Give me money," ring out from every corner of almost every village I happened to pass through.

Type the words "Malawi Phantom aid" into the BBC news website and you will find numerous articles written about the abuse of aid money in the country. For example, five million dollar projects where two million goes into US expat salaries and another $700,000 on wining and dining with government ministers at five star hotels.
The latest craze of phantom aid seems to be focused on Madonna and her recent adoption of a Malawian boy.
A coalition of no less than 67 human rights groups has been pushing for a reversal of the country's decision to allow Madonna to adopt this boy.
SIXTY SEVEN!
Who-knows-how-many dollars are being dished out to object to one boy who has been offered a better life? Little David's father, too poor to keep him, left him with an orphanage and says he agrees with the adoption because he wants a better life for his son. Malawi has one of the highest AIDS rates in the world, with between 12% and 17% of the population infected, and much more than that unable to farm, work or go to school because they have to take care of sick loved ones. (Quite likely the real source of their "so called" famines.)
Approximately 91,000 Malawian children are infected with HIV and another half a million are AIDS orphans.
But I keep coming back to this sad statistic. In a country with so many problems: HIV; education and health care; famine and a crumbling infrastructure - that "sixty-seven" Human Rights groups even operate and take the initiative to focus on whining about the decision to offer some poor orphanage child a better life. I assume these are foreign operated organizations because Malawians have too many other things to worry about to bother wasting time with the human rights of a now spoiled rotten Malawian boy. In my opinion anyhow, the Phantom Aid Malawi conundrom has reached epic proportions.

The photos provided are during my one month trip through Malawi. On that particular day, after a seven hour drive, I came to a bridge that had been washed out. I tested the water's depth and with the help of several Malawians, tried to lift the car to see if we could carry it across. We couldn't. Instead, I decided to return, seven hours back, and take an alternative road. Most irritating though, was that the bridge had been washed out for two years and nobody had bothered to tell us.

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