- Activists Unhappy With Government's Anti-AIDS
Panafrican News Agency
April 5, 2000
by Raphael Tenthani
Lilongwe, Malawi (PANA) - Malawi anti-AIDS activists recently mounted
carnival-like scenes outside parliament in Lilongwe, accusing government of
misdirecting its fight against the incurable disease.
AIDS activists in the country argue that the 110 US dollars pledged by donors last
week to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the next five years will not change the
situation because its target has already been misdirected.
The demonstration's woman leader, Chatinkha Nkhoma, who is living with AIDS,
said the activists feel that even if the money is made available, it will not make
"The campaign would have made sense if government targeted the money towards
procuring drugs that forestalls the progression of the disease for people already
infected with HIV," she told PANA.
Nkhoma said although the cocktail of the drugs is expensive it can go a long way
in saving resources in the long term.
She added that she went public with her sero-status together with another woman
two years ago. But the other woman has since died because she was not on the
cocktail treatment while she herself looks bouncy as if she is not carrying the
The HIV medication, which are not a cure but prolong the lives of people living with
HIV currently available in Malawi, are AZT and 3TC. But, at 25,000 kwacha (about
560 US dollars) for double therapy a month and 40,000 kwacha, (about 900 US
dollars) for triple therapy a month - they are beyond the pockets of most
Malawians, whose per capita income is merely 220 US dollars.
Nkhoma's argument is that the government needs to use the donor money to
negotiate a bargain deals with pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the anti-
HIV therapies in countries like the US.
"Pharmaceutical companies would be more than willing to enter into such deals
with government since it will be an image booster for them," she said, arguing that
the drugs are currently expensive because they are on commercial basis.
Health minister Aleke Banda, however, argued that since only 2 percent of
Malawians under the age of 14 are infected with 14 percent in adults, it is a
government challenge to save the 98 percent young Malawians and 86 percent
adults that are virtually AIDS-free.
Thus, he said, the government devised the five-year strategic plan to protect the
HIV-free group. But Nkhoma, who also led another demonstration during the donor
conference, said that thinking is naive.
She said for years since the first AIDS case was discovered in Malawi in 1985,
there have been a series of workshops and public awareness campaigns on AIDS
but HIV infection has continued to rise.
"The best answer is to target those already with the disease," she reiterated.
Nkhoma argued that if government procures anti-viral drugs for the estimated one
million Malawians living with HIV/AIDS, these will survive longer and be able to
work and look after their children, thereby reducing the burden of government
having to look after orphans and the wreck on the economy.
She gave her own example, saying that the treatment she gets enables her to
work and she is currently studying in the US, a thing she could not achieve if she
was not on treatment.
Parliamentarians looked in awe as the AIDS activists spelt out their agenda. After
receiving their petition, the lawmakers mobilised themselves to contribute to a fund
to aid the campaign.
Of the one million people living with HIV/AIDS, six are reportedly dying daily,
according to figures released by the National AIDS Control Programme.
Banda said AIDS has greatly affected Malawi's socio-economic gains over the
years, reducing life expectancy from 47 years to 37.
- But good info for my childhoods class which will be doing projects on child labor. Maybe having the info will spur people to change things. I still hold out hope...How's the home solar project??KCOn Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 9:26 AM, Christine Chumbler <wartpiggy@...> wrote:
Nothing to be proud of here, I'm afraid.
Malawi's child tobacco pickers 'poisoned by nicotine'Aug 24 2009 07:05Children in Malawi who are forced to work as tobacco pickers are exposed to nicotine poisoning equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day, an investigation has found.
Child labourers as young as five are suffering severe health problems from a daily skin absorption of up to 54mg of dissolved nicotine, according to the international children's organisation Plan.
Malawian tobacco is found in the blend of almost every cigarette smoked in the West. The low-grade, high-nicotine tobacco is often used as a filler by manufacturers, reflecting a long-term global shift in production.
Tobacco farms in America declined by 89% between 1954 and 2002. Three-quarters of production has migrated to developing countries, with Malawi the world's fifth biggest producer.
Seventy percent of its export income comes from tobacco and the country is economically dependent on it.
Plan cites research showing that Malawi has the highest incidence of child labour in Southern Africa, with 88,9% of five to 14-year-olds working in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that more than 78 000 children work on tobacco estates -- some up to 12 hours a day, many for less than 1p an hour and without protective clothing.
Plan's researchers invited 44 children from tobacco farms in three districts to take part in a series of workshops. They revealed a catalogue of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and spoke about the need to work to support themselves and their families and pay school fees.
The children reported common symptoms of green tobacco sickness (GTS), or nicotine poisoning, including severe headaches, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, coughing and breathlessness.
"Sometimes it feels like you don't have enough breath, you don't have enough oxygen," one child said. "You reach a point where you cannot breathe because of the pain in your chest. Then the blood comes when you vomit. At the end, most of this dies and then you remain with a headache."
GTS is a common hazard of workers coming into contact with tobacco leaves and absorbing nicotine through their skin, particularly when harvesting. It is made worse by humid and wet conditions, which are prevalent in Malawi, as residual moisture on the leaves helps nicotine to be absorbed quicker.
Everyday symptoms of GTS are more severe in children than adults as they have not built up a tolerance to nicotine through smoking and because of their physical size. There is a lack of research into the long-term effects of GTS in children, but experts believe that it could seriously impair their development.
Neal Benowitz, professor of medicine, psychiatry and biopharmaceutical sciences at California University in San Francisco, said: "Numerous animal studies have shown that administration of nicotine during infancy and adolescence produces long-lasting changes in brain structure and function, as well as behavioural changes that are not seen when nicotine is administered to adults.
"The brain of a child or adolescent is particularly vulnerable to adverse neurobehavioural effects of nicotine exposure."
Plan called on Malawi's government to enforce existing child labour and protection laws and on plantations to provide safer, fairer working conditions for those children forced to work. It demanded that multinational tobacco companies scrutinise their suppliers far more closely and follow their own corporate responsibility guidelines.
Macdonald Mumba, Plan Malawi's child rights adviser, said: "This research shows that tobacco estates are exploiting and abusing children who have a right to a safe working environment.
"Plan is calling for better enforcement of child labour laws and harsher punishment for employers who break them. These children are risking their health for 11p a day." - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009
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"...for f*ck’s sake, the only thing that privilege is good for is to try to help other people." –Junot Diaz