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Africa cries alone

Where girls sell their bodies for twenty cents.
The state of national emergency declared in Swaziland sums up the plight of vast swathes of Africa, ravaged by disease, natural disasters, endemic poverty and bad management, its resources having been pillaged and its communities unbalanced by years of exploitation.

The World Trade Organization preaches equality. Equality of status, equality of trading conditions, equal opportunities, equal rights. What it practises is something completely different. How can African countries compete with the more developed world when a European or North American producer is subsidized heavily to bring down the cost of the product and when at the same time, tariffs are levied on imported goods?

How can an African compete with a European or a North American on a level footing when it costs him far more to travel to Europe than it costs a European to travel to North America, when the cost of a telephone call or internet connection or mobile phone is higher, when getting an education is a dream for the privileged few?

On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Themba Dlamini of Swaziland appealed to the international community for help while a state of national emergency was imposed in Swaziland. HIV/AIDS and endemic poverty has left a quarter of the population without enough food to eat and 40% seropositive.

Swaziland is perhaps an extreme example but nevertheless a typical one, of the plight affecting millions of African families.

Drought and flood cycles destroy not only the crops but also the seeds even before they become crops. Although millions of USD have been spent on educational programmes, HIV/AIDS continues to run riot through communities all over Africa. In the Ivory Coast, more than half of the patients tested in Korhogo hospital were seropositive, most of them unaware of the disease they carried. Mismanagement by corrupt officials in a continent where the under-the-table commission is a fact of life for business deals provides a setting for the redirection of funds away from target areas.

However, if there are corrupt officials, it is because they have been corrupted. How convenient it is for certain companies to place a person in a position of authority, slip him a bribe and then gain access to Africa's resources.

The fact that there are still communities in Africa which believe that the sexual act with a virgin will provide protection against AIDS is a disgrace, not only for these communities. So is the fact that even when a person knows that a condom should be used, they are not available or cost too much to buy.

In parts of Western Africa, a condom costs 100 CFA - 20 US cents - the same price for which some girls sell their bodies to help them keep their families from starving to death.

Although the power of man is weak against the forces of nature, can Mankind really claim that everything has been done to ensure that African communities can fight against the natural elements?

Isn't the fact that billions of USD are spent every day on WMD programmes by the very countries which condemn the existence of such weapons so vociferously, while millions starve and whole communities are wiped out elsewhere, a fitting comment on the inequality and hypocrisy which describes the world we live in, at the beginning of the Third Millennium?

Were we not supposed to have become more civilized by now?

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