Knowing history can sometimes be more important than you might think. Kim Hill was talking to someone on her Saturday national radio programme, and as an aside, the discussion veering onto the reason why Ernest Shackleton's South Pole venture resulted in everyone dying. The speaker put it quite bluntly, with words to this effect: "Everyone died, because Shackleton took five people, and enough food for four."
Something most of us who have studied history, already know. Most people interested in connecting the dots in broad social issues will have noted several recent interconnected events. The first, was the big GAVI meeting in London in June, with the drive to collect billions of dollars - for vaccines to save babies' lives in Africa etc. The second was the news about insurgent groups continuing to take very young children - boys and girls - to train as soldiers, or as slaves. Here's one story, and as this article shows, this has been going on for decades, and continues to this day. The third was the story about Al Queda in Yemen, putting out a disney type cartoon to recruit very young children to going out and kill lots of people.
These headlines took me back to 1988, when The Evening Post ran their weekly column by a Dr Anyon. In this column, Dr Anyon talked about the three million children who died every year, because they were not vaccinated. He also mused just what sort of life these saved vaccinated children would have to endure. That 3 million figure varies, according to who wants something. In 2006, Unicef in the Herald said 10 million children a year, so give us more dosh please. Bill Gates adds the three new vaccines will save another 3 million more children, over 4 years - so give us more dosh please. So I'll round it out, and say without any shred of scientific proof, that if all children in undeveloped countries are fully vaccinated, that will "save" 11 million children, every year.
When you listen to the glibness of Bill Gates and all the other vaccine defenders - vaccines are "it", basically. Problem solved. Vaccines are quick and easy and a great photo opportunity. In Bill Gates's case, it also increases the profits in his share portfolios dramatically. Listen to Bill and Melinda, and it's "all about the kids."
That sounds very hollow to me. If the issue was really about the BEST way to save kids, the focus would be completely different. The focus would be on clean water for everyone. Providing people with the tools and means to be independant and grow their own food innovatively... dealing with insurgents ... encouraging small businesses... getting to the core of the corruption in African politics. The focus would come from looking at Ground Zero - not "best use of money".
Since 2006, many people have said that there has to be more to AID than handouts. When it comes to core survival, vaccines don't even count. In 2009, someone once saved by AID, commented that handouts are not the answer. Bill Gates isn't listening to them.
The clearest demonstration that vaccines aren't the answer to increasing infant survival, can be see in this comparison. New Zealand, with around a 90% vaccination rate for the primary series of vaccinations, has an infant mortality rate of 4.92 per 1000 live births. Gambia gives it's babies 22 vaccines, (more than New Zealand) and has a higher rate of vaccine coverage at 91%–97%, yet it's infant mortality rate is 68.8. Mongolia has the same schedule as Gambia with a 95%–98% coverage rate, and an infant mortality rate 39.9.
What's different about New Zealand?
New Zealand has clean water, access to good food, and a housing standard which far surpasses either country. New Zealand is not plagued with political or social upheaval. But should political and social upheaval come to New Zealand, our infant mortality rate would soar.
While the medical profession always parrot that. "lack of diphtheria vaccination" was the "cause" of the diphtheria epidemics in the USSR from 1994 onwards, that's not true. The real cause of the diphtheria epidemic - along with an even bigger rises in tuberculosis and other diseases ( which the medical system never breathed a public word about), was the collapse of the economic system within USSR, social strife, war and resultant people migration, fleeing both the fighting and famine.
If you want to get educated, read this book called "War and Disease" online, and you will see what I mean, because down through the ages, ( and in the ages to come) the biggest cause of death and tragedy has been (and will be) war, insurgency and terrorism, which results in food as the ultimate weapon. Africans can't grow food properly where insurgent armies and corrupt governments plunder what food they grow, rape and murder civilians and generally make normal life impossible.
In the absense of war, insurgency and terrorism, the next biggest cause of death and tragedy is unsanitary slums. Think medieval times and the plague. Where were the flaming centres of disease and deaths? Overcrowded European cities. Why? Crap nutrition, overcrowding, Sewage, debris, dregs, skank water ... and ... rats. Think 1800's, London and Typhoid. Contaminated water supplies. They sorted the water out, and typhoid rates plummetted.
As an example, in Iran, the Iranian government records show that life expectancy is 25 years higher, for people living in the countryside in Northern Iran, compared to people living in the cities (information from Iranian doctor). I would suggest that that pattern might exist, world-wide to lesser or greater degrees.
So what is answer in Africa? I don't know, and here's why. I have some friends who live in one of the poorest parts of Namibia. The mother emailed me three weeks ago, to ask what she could do about this situation;
Polio drops were basically enforced on all the lower-class ethnic groups living in the informal settlements. My gardener's son apparently has had diarrhea ever since. 2 kids have died from "diarrhea" since the drops.
She wanted to know what she could do to help, and so I asked her what the people ate. Her reply was;
it is sadly only sugar, flour and maize that they can afford.
Oh great. you can't live healthily on that sort of diet. I asked her if they grew their own vegetable crops and her gardener said:
They still do gardening but that is the ones living on the farms etc. Here in town where their settlement is the water is about 300 meters away. They would also steal each others crops he says. Either way, consumerism has most of the population in an open hand - "give-me" mentality. It is really sad.
I'm worried about my gardener's child, has had diarrhoea for 2 weeks now. He was quite a weak child before the drops and he is NOT doing well. He is very dehydrated.
Furthermore, this polio drive is done repeatedly on the same children, and none of the vaccinators come back to count the corpses, console the parents or consider the "risks and benefit" equations. Or produce accurate statistics.
As far as I can see, it's just about impossible in Namibia to doing ANYTHING meaningful in order to help these children. No-one in the areas where the current African disaster is going on, is doing anything about the REAL issues, because it's not possible with an AK47 nestling in your right lug-hole. As the Aid agencies say, the problem with Africa is not "just" about famine, or drought - that's a regular feature, as any newspaper search will show. In 2011, the problem is about "conflict". Which is made worse by the fact that...
No-one has done anything about the dependency which AID has created, and the vacuum that insurgents and corruption exploits.
Here's a question though. Are the figures of 11 million children saved every year, really true?
If you want to believe they are realy true, ... then let me ask some questions.
1) Can you feed five people long term, on just enough food for four people? Or five people on enough food for three? If not, what then?
2) If Bill Gates, and the AID agencies are not prepared to... or can do NOTHING about the FUNDAMENTALS of African living (which we have in New Zealand, and which are primarily responsible for our low infant mortality rate) what is really being achieved by either AID, or vaccines?
3) If every year, there are 11 million MORE children ALIVE, what happens to those children?
I wonder if any of those questions actually occur to the M&BG Foundation?
Someone might then say, "We can't do "nothing"... we have to do something." Well, what? Go in and provide AID money, which it later turns out, was taken by warlords and used to buy more weapons and consolidate their ability to control and massacre people? And if what has been done for the last three decades, isn't working, and is making the problem worse... how can we expect a solution from the same people who have created an even bigger problem? GAVI, being one of them.
Perhaps it's time for Bill and Melinda to relocate permanently to some of the impoverished African settlements, and start to see, at Ground Zero, what the real issues are, rather than living in some mythical world where they think the naked emperor actually has clothes.
Oh yes, I know... Bill has said that he relies on all the wonderful advice from his expert advisors.
Here's a tip for you, Bill. When you travel with a herd of experts..., there really is bullshit everywhere. The trouble is, the bullshit is so liberally spread, that members of the herd don't see it for what it really is.
The bottom line is that there are two sides to every story, and the biggest one revolves around how you assess just who is right.