Archive for the ‘People in Need’ Category

I just came across this:

A baby with 4 legs was born to a 23 year old mother in Polkswane, South Africa. Read a news story here.

I was saddened to see this. What I wanted to know was: is this a ‘freak’ occurrence that happened independent of nutrition/pollution/stress? Or was it something brought upon by conditions that the mother lives in? I wanted to know for if the latter was brought it on, the same fate might befall several others.

I checked the stats. After all, this was South Africa not Zaire or Somalia or some of the frequent names from Africa that we’ve got used to seeing in the press frequently. The South Africa that has Capetown, Durban, Pretoria & Joburg- all cities that, glossy magazines tell us, are thriving and well.

Polkwane, I learnt is the capital of Limpopo, the northernmost district of South Africa. It has experienced a significant rise in crime over the last 3 years. We all know that the prime stimulus to crime is poor living conditions / unemployment / inequality. The Life-expectancy in South Africa as a whole has dropped 13 years since 1990 (now it hovers between 46-51 years depending on who’s data you believe). One can expect Limpopo to have a similar number (if not worse) though I didn’t not find data to substantiate this.

Here are some figures from the Human Development Index* (1998):

Adult Illiteracy: 15.4%

People without access to safe drinking water: 13.0%

Underweight children aged under 5: 9.0%

Number of South African’s not expected to live beyond 40: 25%

The Limpopo basin it seems receives little rainfall, is semi-arid, with little potential for agriculture. Surprising given its a river basin. This means that most of the people have to work (in fact they do have one of the highest populations of economically active women in the world), yet poverty abounds, as does illness.

The good news however is that the baby above will be well after the surgery. It would be a shame if he weren’t.

I would appreciate some insight on this from those of you who understand Africa better than I do. One more thing- You will be surprised to know that South Africa has the second highest number of HIV afflicted people in the world. Preceded only by India


The Red Pencil in the Classroom: Notes on the Human Development Index.

Human development and poverty indices (reproduced from here)


The Human Development Index (HDI) was introduced in 1990 as an attempt to measure and rank countries according to progress in human development beyond a simple gross national product figure. Instead of using only a financial measure, the HDI is a composite of three basic components of human development:


longevity – as measured by life expectancy;

knowledge – as measured by a combination of adult literacy (two-thirds weight) and mean years of schooling (one-third weight);

standard of living – as measured by purchasing power, based on real GDP per capita adjusted for the local cost of living (purchasing power parity).



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