A Healthy Nation is a Wealthy Nation [Archives:1998/10/Health]

March 9 1998

“What a beautiful scene,” I thought when I was about to land in Yemen. The rocky mountains were so beautiful and the fluffy clouds added the spell to it. Down below, the green patches looked just wonderful. I could not wait to land.
I am a Yemeni from Kenya, where I have lived all my life. The time came to return home. I was anxious and a little nervous. We landed in the afternoon and it was a sunny day. I was impressed at the traditional atmosphere that welcomed me. The men with their jambiyas tucked in at the waist gave me an impression of hostile characters. To my surprise, everyone was so friendly, although I don’t speak fluent Arabic.

I cleared the airport routine and on my way to my destination was when I got the shock. I could not believe the amount of dirt that was spread all over. I stared with my mouth agape. “Gosh! Is this the land that looked so beautiful from above? God, can’t you do something about it? Doesn’t anyone care?” I asked myself a dozen questions. Most places we passed through left us ‘perfumed.’
Later on, I realized that homes have problems with discarding their refuse. The dustbin pits are scarce, so Yemenis end up just disposing it anywhere as long as it’s not in their homes. “How egocentric” I thought at first, but in due time I ended up doing the same thing because there is no other alternative.

Let us consider the side effects of this rubbish lying everywhere. First, it is a danger to our health. Second, it gives an awful impression to foreigners. Third, it contributes highly to air pollution. Lastly, it affects us psychologically. I will expand slightly on the fact that it is a danger to our health. We adults understand what is harmful and vice-versa. Unlike our little brothers and sisters, who have to walk to school and play in the streets because there are no playgrounds in their neighborhoods. They are curious and they dig their noses into everything. They would definitely treasure the rubbish, pick some horrible trash and play with it.
I remember I once met a young girl with a used blood transfusion set. She kept it in her school bag! I almost went crazy. I had such a hard time convincing her that she should not pick up things from the road. She gave me a curt answer, “If I shouldn’t have it, why is it there?” What do I tell her? Nobody cares about you? These innocent creatures are subjected to all kinds of diseases. Just because you and I did not find a better place to dispose of trash and we didn’t bother to find one.

With this experience, I felt challenged and so should you. I kindly implore the concerned authority to do what is expected of them. There is a need to introduce a waste rehabilitation program. More rubbish bins should be put on the streets and every living quarter should have at least one main disposal carriage. If you try, I try and someone else tries, we shall definitely make Yemen a better place.
The young girl has never left my mind. Just imagine if this transfusion set was freshly used and she pricked herself. God knows, it could have the HIV virus and with time, this innocent angel would be diagnosed as HIV positive! Doesn’t a pang of guilt haunt you? Today, it’s someone else’s child, tomorrow it could be yours.
As I mentioned, the dirty atmosphere affects us psychologically, though one never notices the difference unless you go to a clean environment. We must be responsible to change the situation and live a better tomorrow; mentally, physically and psychologically. As the saying goes,
Najla T. Salim