Monday, October 4, 2010

A parade of little coffins

A Canadian-born friend and I were discussing the merits of the health care system in Canada. For all it's purported shortcomings and supposedly decline,  it remains a gem of a system, the envy of most other countries. A Canadian child, regardless of any health issues at birth and onwards, has  excellent prognosis. My friend asked me what the situation is like for children in the Philippines.

I have been away from my country of birth for 32 years but I remembered the population of my peers, cousins and fellow citizens who were quite healthy; for example,  food allergies were unheard of and physical disabilities were not obvious. 

I have this recurring mental vignette of a small procession of people, coming from any of the 4 corners, heading towards one of the 3 churches in town; more often than not, the preferred destination was the Catholic Church (on the way to the cemetery). On the shoulders of a few in the procession would be a small wooden coffin, sometimes painted in colours, often just plain white. I witnessed these processions, mornings and/or evenings, as regular and predictable in recurrence as the Hail Mary comes after the Lord's Prayer on the rosary. Inevitability, not sadness, would be stamped on the faces of the mourners.

Life is not kind in a poor country, more so for the most vulnerable: children. The brutal reality is that the weak die and the fittest (and the lucky few who have access to timely intervention) survive. If a child survives the first 5 years...
Unfair, yes. Real, yes.

Nothing has changed since then.

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