Purple rain


In a week when Australia is recording record temperatures, I reflect on a month in hot, humid Tanzania

Where invariably the temperature is 33 and I ardently seek shade like a lion

Unprecedented heat thought to reach over 50°C in Australia has prompted the meteorological office to introduce a new colour for the very hottest, purple

Today, as ever in Muheza, there was the unmistakeable evidence of death – this time a casket wrapped in a bright purple cloth

Whether sights, smells or sounds, as I walk through the hospital grounds, a place of healing,

There is always sad evidence of passing

A natural event, its emotional depths thrown in sharp relief by the incredibly colourful clothing of the women

Many wear three different kanga, each of different design, each using three or four colours,

One wraps the hips, another covers the bodice, the third acts as a veil or head dress,

The explosion of unmatched colours and designs screams festivity, joy, frivolity, but their faces read otherwise

The men, almost all in western dress – sloganed T-shirts or football jerseys from Europe – look unmatched to the women; drab, suspicious and culturally conflicted,

Faces frequently hard-set but mellowed by ‘Habari’ smile

Small children appear as bulges behind, to the side, or in front of women, wrapped in another kanga

People here are so small; most women under 5 feet and 4-year-olds can be mistaken for a child of 2.


Waiting for free health care by Malcolm Arevalo

The men head and shoulders shorter than me,

The obvious stranger who only now feels confident that minds have met

That the vision for infection prevention in HIV children is shared

Vaccines are for life – to save life – but still ‘the project’ has not started

In life, one either learns patience or is taught it

Hot, purple rage has limited effect or detrimental

The heat saps me as it does others

Water is less and less available but can be bought

And now I hope:

May time bring life-giving, brain-cooling, refreshing rains and flourishing recruitment with many children protected against deadly infections, pneumonia, meningitis and even purpuric systemic sepsis.

[The project, a vaccine implementation project to deliver pneumococcal and Haemophilus influenzae b conjugate vaccines to East African children with HIV/AIDS, has been my dream for over 10 years – one Friday, later in January, the first three children were vaccinated.]