The Herald (Harare)

21 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Purveyors of Slow Death

opinion

If the current, inexorable trend is anything to go by Zimbabweans might sooner or later cram sick beds at home and in hospitals, poisoned by Western-exported junk foods consumed wilfully or out of blissful ignorance of debilitating, boomerang effects.

One is wont to conjure up this frightening picture following a recent warning by the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Henry Madzorera, that cases of people suffering from diabetes were increasing and the Government was worried by the development, caused by the abandonment of healthy, African diets in preference to food imports and fatty food from fast food outlets.

Diabetes is clearly a "white man's disease" as is hypertension, both unknown to Africans until the advent of industrialisation and urbanisation, which saw Africans migrating to urban centres in search of work and adopting exotic dietary habits of the West and brought in by foreign ruling cultures slavishly copied by the black urbanites as symbols of Western civilisation.

This pen disagrees with the description of diabetes, and high blood pressure or hypertension, for which obesity is also responsible, as diseases of the Third World -- an escapist trick by the developed world where the diseases in question are spawned by eating habits there.

For Africa to accept to be lumped with diseases originating in the First World is tantamount to accepting a similar scapegoating under which Africa might also be blamed by the same smart alecs of the West for the causes of global warming.

It is an indisputable reality that industrial nations in the West are the ones that originally polluted the atmosphere by pumping into it the obnoxious fumes from their factory chimneys.

They feared that the costs incurred in limiting the release of dangerous fumes into the air would make their products more expensive and, as a result, less competitive on the world market.

And so, as in the cases of diabetes and hypertension, the scapegoating went on and on until the primary, global warming criminals felt exonerated with other countries feeling responsible for heating up the globe through irresponsible human activity.

But in the case of foreign exported diseases the rich world has in place measures to mitigate or adapt to, the effects of global warming, such as droughts and flooding whereas in Zimbabwe, for instance, rain- making, a not at Matojeni case in the past, but through cloud seeding which has lately become a rarity.

In the other world where the white man's disease now afflicting Zimbabweans came from, exercises in the forms of aerobics and other, keep-fit activities in gyms as well as jogging to kill the effects of fatty foods have virtually become second nature to people, while Zimbabweans largely remain indifferent to these measures to maintain a health mind in a health body.

But while expressing the Government's concern over the rising statistics, though not immediately quantified, or people dying of diabetes, Dr Madzorera left the wider public wondering as to what measures were being taken to fight the scourge which obviously affects the young and active labour force on whose shoulders the acceleration of social and economic development of this country rests.

At home, should fast food outlets vending the dangerous foodstuffs be allowed to continue to do business as if nothing at all is wrong with their products?

In addition to the working class these outlets are popular with young and other courting who fete with fats -- filled foods knowingly or unknowingly of the effects of these foreign diets to their own health.

The other day in Bulawayo recently this pen called two food outlets. In the first, it ordered isitshwala/sadza with matemba (kapenta fish).

"This is (name of the food outlet)," a lady said at the other end.

"Yes, I called that number and would like to order in advance the food that I mentioned."

"But we don't sell isitshwala with matemba here, we sell chicken, chips and other meats," the lady said, her voice sounding alarmed.

At the second takeaway food outlet this pen ordered sadza with vegetables in peanut butter.

As in the first case, a lady who received the call mentioned the name of her workplace, her voice also alarmed and suggesting that the call went to a wrong place.

But when assured that the call was not misdirected and that the order placed was correct, the woman laughed with derision, saying they did not deal in that kind of food.

The two responses are no doubt universal across Zimbabwe.

Yet many Zimbabweans will be aware that nutrition specialists have often mentioned kapenta and peanut butter as being important in the fight against malnutrition which has seen children pushing distended bellies with kwashiorkor as a result of being malnourished.

In the humble opinion of this pen, a case appears to exist for a nationwide nutrition crusade to provide healthy diets to Zimbabweans and that way forestall a potential health crisis that appears to loom ahead of this nation.

As a matter of fact, nothing can adequately compensate for home-prepared, nutritious food be that in the countryside or in the urban centres, many Zimbabweans will agree.

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