Money, guns and malaria pills

This morning I spent about one hour trying to get my malaria prophylaxis. It was not as simple as I thought. I mobilized one of my colleagues, a specialist in infectious diseases who connected me to his friend who runs the national malaria program. I pulled him out of a meeting which he didn’t seem to mind. As it turned out he had studied a year in my homeland and we exchanged a few words in Dutch while being served cake and tea.

I left the place with an insecticide treated bednet after I had declined pills to treat malaria, since I don’t have it, don’t plan to get it; I plan to avoid getting it. Prophylaxis is not so common here, despite the fact that there were about half a million malaria cases last year. The disease is fought mostly through education and bednets; only pregnant women are given prophylaxis.

I ended up getting the pills my Boston colleague had suggested, against the judgment of the chief malaria epidemiologist – but the small pharmacy had nothing else. And then the parents of the bridegroom wrote me they are not taking anything because their son claims there is no malaria in India. He is a young and healthy entrepreneur in the age group that doesn’t expect to ever get sick. What he doesn’t know is that malaria is a big and deadly problem in India (although apparently not so much in Kerala), so I will bring my pills and maybe even my treated bednet.

After several calls with Boston about what happens next I spent over an hour mindlessly removing beads from a scarf that some poor Afghan woman must have spent days sewing on the outlines of a paisley pattern. I don’t even know why I did it and seemed not able to stop myself. The reptilian brain had taken over – not wanting anything nubby to mess up the smooth texture of the scarf – a yearning for something.

The box under the TV that lets me access international news channels was broken again so I watched the local news. Most of it was about weapons or money and/or the damage caused by one or the other or both. Although I did not really understand the details of the coverage of a workshop, I could read on the banner that it was about senior government officials disclosing their assets. The number of 2 million was mentioned several times and I wondered whether that was the limit above which officials had to declare their assets or whether it was the amount already declared. A couple of dozen men seemed to be squirming around a conference table, suggesting the latter. I am all for disclosures like that.

Next the viewer was treated to footage of a huge courtyard presumably somewhere in Kabul with thousands of weapons that were confiscated from the private security companies that are being disbanded. That they were removed from these companies gave me little comfort as they are still in Kabul and will surely go to some other user, official or non official. I just can’t imagine these arms being put in a smelter and turned into plough shares though that would be the right thing to do.

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