Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Should a state of emergency be declared in Swaziland?

I’m just home after a hectic day – nine hours on the road and three hours in a meeting somewhere in the middle – and every minute of this worthwhile! Last week I received an invitation to attend a meeting today, hosted by the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria, focussing on AIDS and Swaziland. The main speaker was Professor Alan Whiteside of the University of Kwazulu-Natal but also Director of HEARD. I accepted the invitation to attend, thinking that it would probably be a discussion of the problem of AIDS and perhaps referring to Swaziland in passing. Was I ever wrong!
What I found out was that Alan Whiteside had spent many years in Swaziland, even schooling there at one the most prestigious schools in the northern part of the country. He has a passion for this country. But what he wanted to share about the country was not good news. Most of the things he said today was not new to me. It was about the effects of AIDS on this country. I’ve done enough research about AIDS in Swaziland to know that what he was saying is the truth. He had developed a number of graphs which was shown on the wall and which illustrated vividly the situation in which we find ourselves at present in Swaziland.
However, he came to a point where he asked the question how an emergency should be defined in a country. One definition says that an emergency is the result of “a bolt out of the blue” such as a tsunami. Furthermore, a country which is recovering from the effects of war could also be considered to be in a state of emergency.
Alan then continued by asking whether an emergency should not be redefined. If an emergency situation is imminent, should people ignore the situation until it explodes or should help be rendered in an attempt to prevent the emergency from occurring? The point he was making – or perhaps closer to the truth – the plea which he directed towards the Dutch ambassador in South Africa and to all the others present, was that they should do something significant to try and stop the growth in the rate of HIV infections in Swaziland before it is too late (the question being whether it is not too late already).
It was a strange feeling to attend a meeting like this entirely as spectator and then to find out that you are held in high regard merely because I told them that I come from Swaziland and that I am project manager of Shiselweni Home-Based Care. It was as if people were thinking: Wow, if the situation in your country is as bad as it seems, you must be a hero to keep on working there! The fact is that, on the outside, little have changed for the worse in Swaziland. In fact, many things are so much better than when I originally arrived in Swaziland in 1985. The infrastructure has improved by 10,000%. Shops, factories and other businesses have improved. But it is only when you leave the highways and move into the homes of the poor and the destitute, that you realise the impact that this disease is having on the population. And the question arises how long it will take before the effects are going to be seen, even in the places which seem to be unaffected for the untrained eye. Five years? Ten years? It is inevitable that things are going to become worse, much worse, before it will become better. But how many people will still be alive at that stage?
Has the time come to announce a state of emergency so that people and organisations all over the world can assist to bring a halt to the spreading of this virus? The answer is not clear. But I have had that uncomfortable feeling that we may be playing violin while Rome is burning…

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - Posted by | Africa, Church, Culture, Death, Giving, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hospitality, Indigenous church, Mission

2 Comments »

  1. I think this information should come under the attention of the government of SA also. Government leaders tend to give the bright side to the people or ignore the real facts. My opinion is that it is the resposibility of the leaders to tell the people that if they don’t change their life styles they will die and nobody will be able to help them. The love life atvertisements in SA are not direct enough.

    Jan Louw.

    Comment by Jan Louw | Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Reply

  2. If you read the article I wrote about the question, “Why are we losing the battle against AIDS?” you will see that the biggest problem still remains, which is denial! This was mentioned yesterday as well. I don’t have the answer, but then I don’t feel lonely out here – because it seems that nobody else has the answer either!

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Reply


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