New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 112

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] THE GARDENS[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. One bouquet...

I was very happy to see that the New Internationalist (NI 109) has given us ‘The Gardens’ by Peter Adamson. His ‘unusual account of life in the slums of a Third World city’ is an excellent picture of what happens at the grass roots — one feels one has been there oneself.

In my case, I was particularly grateful, because I had been in Sri Lanka at the same time as Peter Adamson in connection with a UNICEF policy seminar and my (much more limited) observations at the time very much agree with what he writes.

Retrospectively, I wish we had had this paper in front of us at the Colombo policy seminar — some of our debates and conclusions could then have been more specific and more direct. I will recommend study of this contribution to many of the students and analysts of Third World city problems.

Prof H W Singer
Institute of Development Studies
Sussex, UK

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. and another
As one who in the past has occasionally commented critically on some aspects of the New Internationalist, may I say how much I appreciated the March issue and the excellent article on ‘The Gardens’. By devoting a substantial amount of space to one subject you have given a much less strident commentary than is usual. I did not feel I was being got at as is often the case. You managed to convey a sense of the enormous problems that face such development tasks whether they arise from the structure of society, the expectations of people or the irrelevancies of the bureaucracy. Thanks very much.

CR.G. Maynard
Walton-on-Thames
Surrey, UK

The Editor replies:
Our thanks to everyone who sent verbal bouquets about ‘The Gardens’. We have not printed any brick-bats because we received none.

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Cool breastfeeding
Sheila Kitzinger’s article on how hospitals sometimes hinder mums who might otherwise breastfeed successfully (NI 110), really rang bells with me and lots of my friends.

One of them, Helen, said that a few minutes after she had arrived at a London hospital to deliver her second baby, a nurse who’d been watching her undress announced: ‘Oh, you won’t be able to breastfeed!’

With great presence of mind, Helen replied: ‘Actually, I’ve only just stopped breastfeeding my first.’ It turned out the nurse believed you couldn’t breastfeed if you had small nipples.

Thank goodness Helen had such cool — as well as a successful earlier experience of breastfeeding to draw on. I wonder how many mums, more vulnerable than she, had already been given a reception as devastatingly insensitive — and just plain ignorant — as that.

S. Blake
High Wycombe, UK

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Berit's thrift
J. Thompson’s criticism of Berit Gronwold (Letters, NI 109) seems to miss one important point. He dismisses her thrift on the grounds that a few people in a rich country consuming a little less would make no difference to the Third World, while many doing so would create employment problems. What matters is not the purchasing of second-hand clothes in itself (though it prevents unnecessary waste) but the availability of the money saved, which can be spent on things the world needs — and this provides just as much employment as does any other expenditure, while helping to turn the economy in a more productive direction. Creation of employment is the most popular excuse for wasteful spending.

James Pretty
Norfolk, UK

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Kibbutzim co-operation
In his letter (April 1982) Mr. Benner connects ‘the recent Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and the implementation of kibbutzism in "in full swing" once again’. I think he is confusing two separate issues, namely the policies of the present Israeli government and the success of the Kibbutzim. The latter do indeed demonstrate in practice the idea of collective agriculture and more recently collective industry as well, as I have seen myself after a nine months’ stay in that country.

Members of Kibbutzim do not usually vote for Mr. Begin’s right-wing Likud party nor do they favour all its policies. They are hardworking people, always trying to diversify their activities while maintaining their communal and democratic way of life. In no way do they resemble the armed colonies of Mr. Begin’s letter.

It may interest you to know that recently members of a Kibbutz gave voluntary physical labour helping Arabs rebuild their homes, which had been blown up by the military.

Hilde Crookall
Martinstown
Dorset, UK

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[image, unknown] LITERACY[image, unknown]

Books for Africa
As a research worker I appreciate the modern techniques (advocated by Peter Moll, NI 109 letters) but I would point to a more basic need: for the simple provision of books in Africa. Even in Kenya, public libraries are only found in large towns and I doubt if there is a rural primary school with more than a handful of reading books.

To help such schools I am establishing a scheme to send English reading books (not text books) to a pilot scheme in Western Kenya. So far this scheme has received 5,000 books (mostly from jumble sales!) but many more are needed.

Those interested can write to:
John Humphries
3 Mears Place
Thurso
Caithness
Scotland

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Cultural invaders
I am a committee member of a new charity called LINK which aims to further literacy in the Third World through the provision of books, new and second-hand.

At the moment our committee is trying to make contact with someone or some agency working in the field who can tell us where we can usefully direct our efforts and tell us what kind of books would be of most value.

I personally find that having read Paulo Freire’s books on literacy in the Third World has complicated the issue for me. He stresses that aid given is not a help as it causes dependence on the donor and feelings of inadequacy in the recipients. This puts restraints on what before appeared a laudable, altruistic idea.

The other point is that texts must have relevance to the people receiving them. Presumably this does not mean that one should never send books about things outside the recipients’ experience, but one must avoid ‘cultural invasion’. In this context, would a fully-equipped, secondhand mobile library from Britain be a ‘cultural invader’, or would it be appreciated? If so, where?

Should our emphasis be less on sending books from here and more on purchasing from indigenous publishers?

Anyone who would like to establish contact with us or who can help resolve these dilemmas or suggest suitable reading matter, please contact:

Anne Forbes, LINK
Waterside of Blairmore
Glass, Huntly
Aberdeenshire, AB5 4XL
Scotland

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Disaster skills register
In your March 1982 issue there is a letter from Marcus Thompson of Oxford on the need for skilled people in disaster areas.

I would like to draw your attention to the Register of Engineers for Disaster Relief. This comprises more than 300 men and women with skills in civil engineering and allied disciplines who have volunteered to give three months’ aid at short notice, depending on availability. Volunteers are interviewed and assessed by a panel of experienced engineers and their details kept on file. We also receive requests from relief agencies and endeavour to match need and resource.

Dr F.C Maddox OBE
(Secretary REDR)
Scott House, Basing View
Basingstoke, Hants.
RG2J 2JG, UK

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Sri Lankan misgivings
I have been reading your journal for the past five years and have valued it for its analysis, clear simple language and choice of subjects.

However, I find the issue of November 1981 on Sri Lanka very poor. The first article is ‘Wealth and Welfare’ by Godfrey Gunatilleke, Director of the Marga Institute of Development Studies, Colombo. The Marga Institute and its Directors are known to its critics as mudalalis of research, that is, middlemen to UN agencies, private funding agencies and even the present government here. It has failed in its original aim to be a centre of independent research.

One could hardly agree with some of his statements. Referring to the major departure of the present government away from welfarism: ‘The main pillars of the welfare system — free health and education remained unshaken.’ Further on: Other welfare programmes — for example the free supply of nutritional supplements to pregnant and lactating women and to malnourished children were stepped up to a point where there are now 500,000 beneficiaries.’

The facts are that the present government has yielded to the demands for private practice even by nonspecialist doctors and that the standards of general medicine within the government hospitals have declined. Doctors naturally are more keen on rushing off to see their private patients from whom they must, on average, earn Rs.20,000 a month (about US $1,000).

On the other hand malnutrition has been increasing steadily since the withdrawal of free rice rations and subsidised lentils, dry fish and sugar, on the advice of IMF and the World Bank as a concomitant to the open economy policies of the present government. So increasing the number of beneficiaries is a necessity to counter the very measures taken by this government. It is by no means an achievement.

Furthermore, the free import of drugs has made a mockery of Professor Seneka Bibile’s scheme to import only a named list of drugs under generic names, under the previous government (1970—77). Now patients are open to the wiles of drug companies who price their drugs in such a way that the same drug costs three times the price under a non-generic name. Naturally, the Health Ministry can not afford to import the required quantities. Nor can most patients: 70% of the population earn less than Rs 500 per month (about $25).

Akushla Rupesinghe
Colombo 5
Sri Lanka

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