The Director of International Relations writes from Mozambique, the first destination of a mission that will take him to Ecuador, Bolivia and Bosnia in the follow-up and execution of our public health interventions. The reflection on health as a right and health as a result of both national and international politics and decisions are the focus of these comparative, global and critical notebooks.
“A novel where there is no dead person, it seems to me like a lack of life”
I have to confess that I have written this notebook twice. Throughout this week in the capital of Mozambique, I have heard and read about everything that does not work in this country. Moreover, I could say that I have heard and read about how deeply screwed Africa is. Actually, since I arrived at this continent back in 2001, I have met people who have the extraordinary ability to, in just thirty minutes, make a diagnosis of this land, and reach overwhelming, resounding and almost always very negative conclusions about their future. This vision is not born from anything, it is the result of what history books have always told us and, above all, of negative journalism and its eagerness to feed this position. It always seems that there has to be “one dead in the news.” The first draft of this notebook was born flooded under that dark tsunami.
Journalism plays an essential role in the mental order that dominates society, in the priorities we give to our thoughts, in the brightness or darkness that we assign to regions, to countries, to towns and the people. Negative journalism is not exclusive to Africa. It is not casual or arbitrary, it is a global strategy of the vast majority of media and governments that seek, through the constant bombardment of catastrophic headlines, to leave us sitting on the couch, petrified, scared, paralysed, obedient, trained, ultimately annulled so that we cannot stir before the blatant robbery of everything we have won by fighting.
For the citizenship of the north, those of us who call ourselves “developed”, a headline about the disasters of Africa, its wars, hunger, poverty or corruption is an almost narcotic balm that makes us say “here no we are so bad ”or“ we do know how to live ”, sinking even more into immobility and intoxicating complacency. Moreover, I think that in the newsrooms (many of them well oriented by interest and private and partisan capital) we are intentionally launching this news, the dose that has to calm us.
Journalism plays an essential role in the mental order that dominates society, in the priorities we give to our thoughts, in the brightness or darkness that we assign to regions, to countries, to towns and the people.
Negative journalism is not exclusive to Africa. It is not casual or arbitrary, it is a global strategy of the vast majority of media and governments that seek, by constantly bombarding catastrophic headlines, to leave us sitting on the couch voided.
I was there yesterday. The truth is that it is very simple to fall into the trap, to be governed by what you read in the headlines, to get carried away by fatigue, instead of looking up a bit and observing, feeling and trying to understand. After more than two hours typing on a cold afternoon in Maputo, I stopped along the way and raised my hands from the keyboard. I struggled to remember some lines of greats who wrote or write about Africa from another perspective, from the courage to go against the flow. Mankell said that in Africa he learned much more about humanity than anywhere else in the world and Kapuscinky said that this is where he really became a journalist. The youngest Aldekoa tells us that Africa is not a forgotten continent, it is a silenced continent and insists that the future of humanity passes through this land with the youngest population on the entire planet.
The fuel began to circulate through my veins and I could see in each story, in each day lived in this country and on this continent, extraordinary beings, phenomenal events and huge chimaeras. I do not have very clear to the function of these notebooks, in reality maybe they do not have one, but I concluded that they were not going to be a few more lines in the service of negativity. Honestly, I said to myself “screw them if they think I’m going to help them continue to paint our future black, at least here I will tell what in the mainstream media is invisible.” I thought of you, those who have every right in the world to dream that in this generation and the next solutions will come, and most likely, they will be born from the ingenuity of a young African person.
In a health system on the verge of collapse, without the government budget it deserves, and with an international community more concerned with showing the achievements of its battalions than in the construction of a health model for everyone, still thousands of nurses they serve a whole population with the few means they have and giving their best. The coverage of deliveries attended by health professionals has increased from 55% in 2011 to 83% in 2017. Maternal and infant mortality continues to be reduced thanks to health workers, poorly paid and living in extreme conditions. They are heroes, and we wanted to honour them with the documentary “A Luta Continua”. I want to talk about this, this is what I want to tell.
In the north of Mozambique, thousands of artisanal miners try to make a living looking for grams of gold in the vastness of the African savannah. I have not seen or known life harder than that. Water and flour is your food. Whole days in the sun digging unstable caves. They use, as in the whole world, mercury to extract the gold, contributing without knowing it to 40% of all the mercury that exists in the atmosphere. We wanted to tell this in the documentary “Gold Fever”. Well, after more than three years working in that region, we have managed for the first time in the history of this country to introduce alternative methods to the use of mercury, clean, ecological methods. There are already more than five associations of miners that go against the tide and defy the logic of the gold and mercury smuggling mafias, and choose to continue dignifying their lives and take care of the lands that saw them born. I want to talk about this, this is what I want to tell.
One in three women in the world has suffered gender violence. Mozambique does not escape the global problem of this inequality and terror. It is a patriarchal society, still dominated by a sometimes misunderstood tradition that considers women property and legislation still influenced by years of colonization. In this jungle, a group of women fighters, artists, rappers, jurists and writers push a cultural current that, in the hands of feminist social movements, has achieved a law against gender violence and gain participation spaces policy that was, not so long ago, unimaginable. We wanted to give them a voice, focus and illuminate this artistic movement with the documentary “WOMAN” (webdoc soon available www.woman.cat ) which will be released in October. I want to talk about this, this is what I want to tell.
The sunrise in Mozambique is short-lived. The sun rises and, in a few minutes, it illuminates and heats a lot. The cold afternoon of yesterday has vanished and today a blue sky covers Maputo. It’s barely seven in the morning and the streets are already full of life, buses that roar, uniformed students who go to school. I feel that the freedom to write is defended by marking the distance in front of those who push you to narrate the narrated. I want to talk about this, this is what I want to tell.
Ivan Zahinos Ruiz
International Relations Coordinator
*Translated from Spanish into English by Susanna Pujol Clivillé