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
. and another
The Editor replies:
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.
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.
Books for Africa
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:
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
Disaster skills register
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
Sri Lankan misgivings
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).