Day 6 – Friday

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This morning we focused on the issue of HIV/AIDS in Chingola. In the morning we visited Kabundi East clinic which holds an HIV surgery on Friday mornings. After discussions with the doctor we met and filmed an interview with two HIV patients. I asked what impact it had on them, how he was treated in the community, about the availability of medication and what messages he had for our students. His responses were very positive and enlightening, but had a stark message for complacent nations.

The HIV programs stretch into the compounds where home based care is introduces. Medical practitioners go out into the compounds to teach about prevention, but also to ensure HIV/AIDS patients are taking the correct medication and eating correctly. Apparently taking the anti-retroviral (ARVs) on an empty stomach can increase organ damage and increase the chances of contracting opportunist infections that can lead to death. The ARVs are now freely available to all but before 1998 they had to be paid for, so could not be afforded by many. The impact on death rates and life expectancy are clear to see, but as mentioned before the sensitisation message is now getting through to most people.

Next we discussed with pupils the same issue. They had a clear level of understanding, but some were initially reluctant to come forward in front of a large group. They suggested that discrimination towards people with HIV remains in some parts of the community, but is decreasing. We filmed interviews with individual students which we will share with students in Pencoed.

To be honest I was not looking forward to this part of the visit because I thought it would leave me with feelings of despair, as if nothing can be done. What I found from the people we spoke to in the clinic and the pupils in school was that there is hope that this disease can be brought under control. As geographers we look for spatial patterns, and the spread of HIV has an obvious spatial dimension. In the more affluent areas of Chingola the message is getting through, but attitudes are harder to overcome in other areas including rural communities. Our skills as geographers have never been more in demand to recognise and deal with these spatial inequalities.

Next up we visited Kapisha compound. It established itself in the 1960s as a shanty compound around an abattoir. Continued rural-urban migration led to the growth of the compound. In 1971 the council upgraded Kapisha to a ‘sites and services’ compound. This involved the construction of pipes to bring water, and the building of pit latrines to improve sanitation. No electricity was included. In 2007 Kapisha no longer has piped water as the pipes were damaged, residents now purchase water from vendors, or dig their own wells. I will visit Soweto compound (named after the SA township) in the morning by way of comparison.

Beyond Kapisha compound we passed a cemetery where a funeral was taking place. The cemetery was dedicated in 1995. It now covers a vast area. Take a look at the image that follows. What might this tell us about life expectancy?

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Finally we visited Kapisha hot springs – within a deforested eroded landscape we found a boiling hot source of water. This is also an area of tectonic activity, just below the Great African Rift. The hot spring was much like those found in Iceland, but rather than being a major tourist attraction or harnessed for its potential geothermal energy, it was hidden away amongst long grasses.

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In summary, today was most surprising. I had expected to feel a sense of despair with researching these issues. Instead I was left with a sense of optimism. The positive messages of HIV prevention and treatment are making an impact, but also the area has great potential to diversify beyond its reliance on just the one industry. Teachers and pupils could visualise a future when the hot springs brought in tourists and the town was supplied with free and non polluting energy.

These children are the future of Chingola and Zambia.

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One Response to “Day 6 – Friday”

  1. Evans Says:

    Its is very sad to see how Kapisha Cemetry has expanded since 1995. people are dying at a very fast rate, the last time i went there (early this year), there were burying a total of 8 people. What is most saddenning is that the majority of people who are dying are between the ages of 15 to 35 years.

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