Georgina, Malaria and feeling helpless

I am sitting here doing my work, as Georgina, our servant cleans up the mess that Claudia and I invariably make everyday. She gets a call on her mobile phone and then goes outside to take it. She returns and tells me that her 7 year old son has been taken to the hospital. He has a severe case of Malaria. I ask Georgina if she can go to him, and she says that she has to work, and she doesn't have money for it anyways. I recall the welcome letter in our house here that says we can't give anything to the staff - that they are searched when they leave the gate. I also recall the advice of various people we have met over our past week here. "Don't get involved in your servants' personal lives."

Georgina goes back to work, cleaning our bathroom. I can hear her sobbing quietly. What am I doing here? I want to help the people in Malawi, but I feel paralyzed.

She just got another call. He has cerebral malaria - one of the worst kinds. The fact that he is in the hospital is proof of this enough, malaria is common here, and most people just tough it out. Her son has been put on a Quinine drip. Quinine! This is the ingredient in tonic water and why British imperialists in the 1800s used to drink Gin & Tonic. It is only effective against the weakest strains of malaria.

Next to me on the table is a bottle of Malarone pills. They are a brand new medication, that we take every night to avoid catching Malaria. They are available only in the West. I have been told by an expat that just one pill will often cure someone with the virus. They cost more per pill than Georgina probably makes in a week. Should I give her a few? I don't know the right dosage for a 7 year old - or if it is dangerous to mix with Quinine.

Well, she was just told by her boss that she is allowed to go to the hospital during her lunch break. I asked her if she has enough money for the minibus to the hospital and she said yes, but she is unsure about the hospital bills.

I will definitely help her, I just have to decide how best to do it.

It is for situations like this that having a bank account is so important. People without bank accounts do not save money. It is too dangerous to leave any significant amount under the bed, so money is spent as it is earned. This is why Claudia's work at OIBM is so crucial. With a bank account, people save and are better equipped to handle the disasters that life invariable yields. Unfortunately it is easier to say that from Oxford than from Malawi.

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