Friday, December 05, 2008
Hope for the Hopeless
For years my mother has supported the fine work of Dr. Paul Thistle (pictured above,) the chief medical officer of the Howard Hospital in northern Zimbabwe. Dr. Thistle is a Christian, a Salvation Army officer, who goes about his work with incredible grace and good humour despite circumstances which would overwhelm most of us. The hospital serves 250,000 people with an annual budget of $40,000 and only two doctors.
You may have heard that Zimbabwe is dealing with a cholera epidemic. That's not correct -- the country is not addressing this serious outbreak because there is virtually no health care infrastructure. Along with staggering inflation, food shortages, the stifling of political opposition, there is next to no state-run health care in Zimbabwee. Hospitals such as the one Dr. Thistle runs is reliant on donations from foreigners.
Desmond Tutu has expressed his deep frustration with what he sees in Zimbabwe by saying that the country which was once the "bread basket" of Africa is now a "basket case." So much of this collapse must be laid at the feet of the dictator Robert Mugabe. His disregard for the people he rules is evil, plain and simple. Recently an international delegation which included former U.S. president Jimmy Carter was denied access to the country and foreign reporters must be careful about what they say to the rest of the world. Mugabe does not want us to hear about the political suppression and the suffering of citizens.
What do we do? An international military intervention? If ever there was a case for U.N. intervention, this is it.
We can certainly pray for change and for the safety of Dr. Thistle and those like him. And we may choose to support oases of hope such as his hospital.