Sydsvenskan - Sweden's third biggest newspaper recently published a feature article on maternal welfare in Benin. So far, so fantastic. There are not too many insightful artices about African countries in Swedish media.
The headline said that since a gynecologist was elected minister of health in Benin, maternal welfare is free of charge. (The decision took effect 1st of April 2009) The article then tells the story about a woman who had a C-section free of charge, and survived, but lost her child. Problems do persist for Beninese women. Poor infrastructure make hospital inaccessible for many, and local traditions might look at doctors with suspicion. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that it is good news when Benin, a low income country, pays special attention to women's health.
Beninese women in a micro financing seminar. All of them now have legal access to free maternal welfare.
Photo credits: ~MVI~
Not only is maternal welfare on of the UN's Millenium Development Goals, many seem to think that helping women is the fastest and most reliable way to make a society develop. I am prone to believe them. Benins effort has been praised not only in Swedish press, but also by star philantropist ladies: Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Melinda Gates
What made me read the article over and over, after the initial entusiastic read, was that I was trying to find the name of the Minister of Health who initiated this. Does he not deserve some praise? Even if his policy could be critizised, it could hardly be discussed without even mentioning the his name, which is Issoufou Takpara. That was not stated anywhere in the article, but as always, the answer is available somewhere on the internet.
Photo credits: Beninplus.net
How comes that the names of taliban commanders like Mulla Omar and Mulla Abdul Salam are commonplace in western media, but an entire feature article about development issues can discuss Benin's health politics without mentioning the Issoufou Takpara's name? Obviously health officials are not considered as important as terrorists. And mr. Takpara would make a much duller picture on western TV screens than the colourful mullas.
Fighting the talibans looks so good on TV that one could suspect the whole war is orchestrated. In one corner: our boys, good and civilized. In the other corner: them, medieval muslim barbarians, so evil hat we are justified to kill them. With God on our side.
Suffering Beninese women who lose their children due to poor conditions also fit the screen. We love to see and read about Africans whom we can feel sorry for. But an African politician who tries to deal with maternal welfare through something so normal and socialdemocratical as maternal welfare free of charge... Is he good or evil? Civilised or medieval? Like most politicians I guess he is more civlised than good, but far from outright evil. That makes a poor story. So maybe it is more readable if we no write his name, and pretend that he does not exist?