When does Rosie the refugee become South African? Never?

Rosie” was born in 1987 in Angola, during the civil war. In 1997, her father brought her and her three siblings to Cape Town, where he dumped them in a shelter and disappeared. At the time, Rosie’s siblings’ ages ranged from five to eight years old. Rosie has lived in South Africa ever since. She spent ten years in Angola, eighteen years in South Africa, but she’s still a `refugee.’ The war has ended, and so Rosie and her siblings are now liable for deportation, or not. “We don’t know Angola as ‘home’. We want to get student visas so we can stay here. We don’t have anything to go back to,” Rosie explains.

Last Friday, various reports circulated claiming that the South African government was set to deport as many as 2000 Angolan refugees, as well as a smaller number of refugees from Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone. Over the weekend, the State leapt into action, explaining that it “is firmly committed to ensuring the fulfilment of its international obligations towards refugees and asylum seekers in terms of its ratification of the relevant international protocols.” Which means less than nothing.

Angolan community leader Jao Kaputo has been in South Africa since 1994. He explains the difficulties many Angolans face in the various registration processes, “Our homes were bombed. We lost everything, including documents. We are dispersed; our mothers went their own directions, and our fathers the other direction. As a result some of us are not documented, including children born here, and cannot apply for birth certificates.”

Pedro Nzazi” has been a refugee in South Africa for 20 consecutive years: “Starting over in Angola after 20 years of staying here will be very difficult. I have children at university and others still going to school. If I relocate to Angola, what will happen to them? Many Angolans, whose permits expired already are illegal, may be deported and they cannot access their bank accounts. I know five people who gave up and went back to Angola. They intend to apply for permits from there, but I am worried they might not be successful because of the strict immigration regulations gazetted on 22 May 2014.”

In 1989, Jesus Espirito Do Santos was born in Angola to a Congolese woman, Suzan Ntoto, and her Angolan husband. In 1992, Suzan Ntoto brought her three-year-old Jesus Espirito Do Santos to South Africa and applied for refugee status. In 2009, Ntoto died, and her South African employer offered to adopt Do Santos, but couldn’t because Do Santos couldn’t produce his birth certificate. In 2013, Do Santos, who speaks only English and Afrikaans, and not a word of Portuguese, faced “repatriation.”

Irene Kainda’s story is the same. She came to South Africa as a child refugee, grew up in Cape Town. She and her brother, Felipe, thrived, despite having been abandoned by their mother. And now she faces “repatriation” to a country she does not know that speaks a language she does not speak.

Everything about this is predictably wrong. One could argue that, while the civil war has ended, peace in Angola is still aspirational. For example, the past three months saw activists imprisoned for membership in a book club, and then their mothers were arrested. One could point to the gross injustice of Operation Fiela – Reclaim, an anti-immigrant sweep designed to “restore order” after the March – April Afrophobic, xenophobic pogroms in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. South Africa’s firm commitment to the strangers in its midst under brutal attack has been to brutally attack those strangers. While the courts have temporarily stopped many of the deportations, the arrests continue, and the brutality intensifies in the Lindela Repatriation Centre. Here’s Fiela: a mountain of warrantless searches and improper arrests, deployment of the military as police, overly long stays in detention, evisceration of due process rights, intensification of xenophobia and Afrophobia. This does not restore or reclaim anything good. It merely terrorizes any South African-based, low to moderate income African born outside of South Africa.

The worst, though, is the willful imposition of inhumanity, the broad-brush practice of State terrorism and violence against those who came seeking succor and have actually thrived. The State will clothe its terrorism in legal language, but it remains terrorism. In South Africa today, what are the borders of being-a-refugee? When does one stop being a stranger and become simply a neighbor? Irene Kainda, Jesus Espirito Do Santos, “Pedro Nzazi”, Jao Kaputo, “Rosie”, and thousands of others want to know.

 

 

(Photo Credit: GroundUp)

My name is Adrienne Kambana. I am the widow of Jimmy Mubenga

 

Last Tuesday, a woman appeared before judge and jury, and she sobbed: “My name is Adrienne Kambana. I am the widow of Jimmy Mubenga and the mother of our five children. Jimmy Mubenga was a good father… [and] a good husband… He had never been in trouble with the police before. He had never done anything wrong. When he was arrested he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. An argument started and Jimmy got caught up in it. Jimmy was convicted of an offence of causing actual bodily harm and he was sent to prison in March 2006. Although I was not a witness to what happened, I was present at the trial where he was found guilty. He told me, `I was innocent’ and I believed him. This was the first time he had ever been away from the children. By April 2007 he had served his sentence but he was detained under immigration powers. He remained detained until June 2008 when he was granted bail. It was during this time that Blessing was conceived. Jimmy instructed a solicitor and tried to challenge the deportation because he wanted to stay with his family… I was asked by the police to tell them about the phone calls I had with Jimmy on 12 October 2010… He said, “I’ll call you back” and he did not call me back. That was the end of the story.”

That was the end of the story.

The so-called liberal democracies festoon themselves with inquests as if these carnivals of `the rule of law’ equal justice. They don’t.

The current manifestation is “the Jimmy Mubenga inquest,’ taking place now in London. On October 12, 2010, Jimmy Mubenga boarded a plane for Angola, in the custody of G4S guards. Within 50 minutes, Jimmy Mubenga was dead. During those 50 minutes, Mubenga repeatedly asked for help and received none. He begged, he screamed, he called out, “They’re going to kill me.” And they did.

And now we `discover’ that the G4S security guards had racist jokes on their phones. While that is `unfortunate’, mobile phones did not kill Jimmy Mubenga, nor did a few racist guards, be they privately employed or working for the State. Jimmy Mubenga was killed by State policy. He was killed by the very entity that is now `conducting an inquest’ in full view.

While the possibility of arriving at something like the truth of the event of Jimmy Mubenga’s death is important and worthwhile, it does not constitute justice. Jimmy Mubenga is dead. The children can’t stop crying, the widow can’t stop crying. If there were justice, Jimmy Mubenga would be alive.

Only a fundamental structural change – one that never again criminalizes, cages, and executes `the strangers among us’ – would begin to arrive at justice. Jimmy Mubenga’s death, like that of Ashley Smith in Canada and so many others around the so-called `free world’, are part of State policy, not the errant acts of individuals.

Adrienne Kambana concluded her remarks, sobbing: “Jimmy has gone forever. We need justice. Justice will help Jimmy rest in peace. This will prevent the situation from happening again. Justice will give the other passengers on the plane peace of mind about what happened. Justice will protect people in the future because I don’t want anyone to be in my shoes. Justice will help my children not to feel angry about what happened to their father. Justice will help me to live a long and healthy life so that I can take care of our children. I need justice, especially for my daughter who did not get the chance to know her father. We will never forget Jimmy.”

The inquest is expected to continue for eight weeks.

 

(Photo credit: IRR.org.uk)

Welcome Irene Kainda as a neighbor, not as a stranger

What are the borders of being-a-refugee? When does one stop being a stranger and become simply a neighbor? Irene Kainda wants to know.

Irene Kainda is 21 years old. She lives in Cape Town. She has lived in Cape Town continuously since 1998. She used to live with her mother and her brother, Felipe, who is two years younger than Irene. In 2006, Irene and Felipe’s mother abandoned them. The two children spent three years in a homeless shelter, and then were taken in by some good people. Now Irene is in college and so is her brother, thanks to Irene’s hard work. In many ways, this is, or could be, a tale of great promise, a tale of a young woman who keeps on keeping on.

Irene and Felipe came to South Africa as refugees, and there’s the rub. The civil war in Angola is officially at an end, and the situation is both improved and improving: “Angola is a nation of bright minds, brilliant writers, exceptional musicians, and a civil society that, almost 11 years after war’s end, is ready to have its voice heard.” Of course, there’s much room for improvement, but that’s true everywhere.

Recently, the South African government decided to `encourage’ Angolan refugees to return `home’. The `invitation’ to `apply for repatriation’ is universal. Everyone has to `apply’. Hundreds of thousands of people, call them Angolans who have sought refugee status, live in South Africa. Many of them have lived there for twenty years. For many of them, South Africa is the only home they really know. Irene Kainda notes, “I came to South Africa when I was seven. I don’t remember Angola, I don’t know where I am from and who or where my family there is.”

What are the borders of being-a-refugee, and how does gender inflect those borders? Women and girl refugees haunt the world. According to the most recent UNHCR Global Trends Report, at the end of 2011, 42.5 million people were displaced. Of them, 15.2 million were refugees. Women and girls made up 49 per cent of persons “of concern to UNHCR.” According to the UNHCR, 48 percent of refugees are women and girls. Further, “in 2011, UNHCR submitted some 92,000 refugees for resettlement. Ten per cent of all submissions were for women and girls at risk, the highest percentage of the last six years.” The next UNHCR report comes out in a month.

The civil war in Angola saw massive, programmatic and widely acknowledged violence against women and girls, and yet the processes and structures concerning demobilization altogether avoided women and girls as a distinct group. Thus, no resources were dedicated to their specific needs. And now it looks like South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs will do the same, avoid any recognition of the specific situations of Angolan-born women and girls living in South Africa.

Meanwhile, more than one study has noted that xenophobia is the dark side of the new supposedly democratic South Africa: “Intolerance is extremely pervasive and growing in intensity and seriousness. Abuse of migrants and refugees has intensified and there is little support for the idea of migrant rights.” Sometimes the abuse was directed specifically at Angolan refugees in Cape Town: “The City of Cape Town, like many other cities, has seen a number of xenophobic attacks on foreigners…The most well-publicised conflicts have been those in Danoon, Doornbach in 2001 and in Joe Slovo Park in 2002. Perhaps the most publicised incident was in Joe Slovo Park, where four people were killed in clashes between Angolan refugees and South Africans.”

Irene Kainda is an Angolan-born young woman who has lived and grown up, and raised her younger brother, in Cape Town in a very particular historical period. She has labored through abandonment, homelessness, xenophobia, violence against women, and more. At every step of the way, she was supposed to fail, and take her younger brother down with her. Instead, she succeeded, and took her younger brother up with her. And her reward, if the South African government has its way, is to be shipped to a `homeland’ she doesn’t know?

That cannot be. The State cannot punish Irene Kainda who has spent almost all her life engaged in Cape Town in performing the labor of survival with dignity, hope, and humor. Rather than deport Irene Kainda, reform the State. Institute a statute of limitations on being-a-refugee. Take responsibility for being a haven. Stop treating Irene Kainda as a stranger and welcome her as a neighbor.

 

(Photo Credit:Mail & Guardian)

 

Queen Nzinga haunts the `scales’ of Angola’s autonomy

 

Queen Nzinga refuses to sit on the floor

A week ago, November 10, 2011, Angola marked its 36th Independence Day since the proclamation of independence, November 10, 1975. So, how better to acknowledge the day than to focus on … Angola asylum seekers? By and large, the Western media paid no attention to Angola today, but then again what else is new.

The great exception was Radio Netherlands Worldwide, which sported a piece entitled, “The `Mauros’ who could not stay.” `Mauro’ is Mauro Manuel, an 18 year-old Angolan lad who was recently informed he could stay in the Netherlands, where he’s lived, with a foster family, for the last eight years. Mauro wasn’t given asylum, but, on Tuesday of this week, he was allowed a reprieve. The Dutch Parliament gave him a student visa. What happens next is up in the air.

The “other `Mauros’” are women.

Amalia is 17, Tucha is 19. Their father was killed, for political activities, and the older sister was raped. That’s when they fled Angola. They lived in the Netherlands for five years. Then, they were denied asylum and, after five years, shipped back to Angola. No matter that Amalia was 16 at the time, a minor. No matter that no one knows where their relatives are or even if they are. A year on, they still don’t know if their mother is dead or alive.

“At the other end of the scale”, according to RNI, is Engracia. 33 years old. Completed her education in the Netherlands, where she lived for 14 years. No political violence. Supported by middle class kin in Angola and the Dutch Refugee Council, who paid for her ticket back and gave her 2000 euros.

So that’s the RNI Angola Scale: weeping, terrorized, impoverished failed asylum seeking girl, on one end; successful, entrepreneurial woman, on the other. On one end, desperately poor and with no apparent means of securing income; on the other, `gifted’ handsomely, as a `returning refugee’, by the largesse of Europe.

Really? That’s the scale?

What about all those other women in Angola? What about the ones who organize, struggle, and keep on keeping on? Women like Teresa Quarta, chairwoman of the Association of Angolan Women and Sports (AMUD), who argued this week that women athletes is all fine and well, but Angola needs to attend to developing and supporting women sports managers. What about women like primary school Maria Emelia and Rosa Florinda, women who don’t deny that things are tough, that classes are overcrowded, that the country lacks sufficient numbers of trained teachers, that too many children are too hungry. Women teachers, across the country, who keep teaching, keep pushing, keep pulling. Factory workers, farmers and farm workers, nurses and doctors, women. Ordinary women. Women not defined by their encounter with the European state. Women defined as simply Angolan.

When they look for a model, when they look for a Queen, for example, they need not look to Queen Beatrix, of the Netherlands, nor to her mother, Queen Juliana. Instead, they could look closer to home. They could look to Queen Nzinga, Nzinga the Warrior Queen of the Ndongo and Matamba, that woman who overcame local structures, who defied and often defeated the Portuguese, who almost single handedly created a new state. Nzinga was not a saint, was not some pure or ideal woman. She cut deals. She allied with the Dutch against the Portuguese. She provided safe haven for runaway slaves while at the same time engaging in the slave trade. That’s life. “It’s complicated.”

Nzinga was not a heroine nor is she an icon. She was a leader. Nzinga led in war, peace, commerce, politics, and life. Nzinga was an Angolan woman who led Angolans into action. Nzinga was an Angolan woman, who presaged not only Angola’s national independence but also its national autonomy. Nzinga haunts the `scales’ of Angola, and Amalia, Tucha, Engracia, Teresa Quarta, Maria Emelia, Rosa Florinda, and so many others, are her descendants. Tell that as the story of Angolan independence.

(This post originally appeared, in slightly different form and under different title, here http://africasacountry.com/2011/11/16/angolan-independence/

 

(Image of Queen Nzinga: Amazing Women in History)

The children just can’t stop crying

Makenda Kambana - Jimmy Mubenga's wife - (left) with family and supporters

Makenda Kambana – Jimmy Mubenga’s wife – (left) with family and supporters

Today, November 10, 2011, Angola marked its 36th Independence Day. How does Europe mark Angola’s independence?

Jimmy Mubenga was on a `hit list’ in Angola, and so he fled to England. He applied for asylum. Denied asylum, he was put on a plane. His wife and five children remained in England. Mubenga resisted deportation. He was forcibly placed on a plane and, according to witnesses, killed by G4S escorts. His widow, Makenda Kambana, reported, “The children just can’t stop crying and I don’t know what to say to them.” That was then. A year later, Makenda Kambana reports that little has changed, except, perhaps, for her education. Now she knows that her husband was not an anomaly, that he was part of a culture of mistreatment and abuse of people of color by the so-called escorts. What does she say to her children now?

That was 2010.

Five years earlier, Manuel Bravo, suffered a related fate. Bravo had arrived in England, with his wife Lidia and two sons, in 2001. He had been imprisoned for pro-democracy activities, and his parents and sister had been killed. In 2004, his wife took their son, Nelio, and returned to Angola, to take care of ailing relatives. She was arrested, and, upon release, fled to Namibia. Manuel Bravo was denied asylum, and then, in the middle of the night, border agents came to the house, took him and his son, Antonio, to the notorious, privately run Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, and told them to prepare for deportation the next day. That night, Manuel Bravo hanged himself, leaving a note that read, in part, “I kill my self, because I don’t have life for live any more. My son Antonio stay here in UK to continue his studying. When he grow up, he [illegible] your decision. I really sorry because I can’t return to Angola.”

Antonio did in fact stay in England. He did pursue his studies. He grew up to be a fine young man. And his reward, now that he’s an adult? The government seeks to deport him. Happy birthday, Antonio, welcome to adulthood.

And then there’s Amalia and Tucha. Amalia is 17; Tucha is 19. Their father was killed, for political activities. Tucha was raped. In 2005, alone and unaccompanied, they fled Angola. Last year, after living in the Netherlands for five years, they were denied asylum and peremptorily shipped back to Angola. No matter that Amalia was a minor. No matter that no one can locate their relatives.

Amalia explains, “A group of policemen entered our bedroom in the middle of the night. They said: ‘Pack your stuff.’ I said: ‘Why, why, why? I’m not yet 18!’ But they grabbed us and put us on a plane. Five people accompanied us; I don’t know who they were. I just cried and cried.”

I just cried and cried.

This is the narrative of empire: The children just can’t stop crying.

 

(Photo Credit: Socialist Worker)

 

And Jimmy Mubenga is dead

 


Jimmy Mubenga came to England seeking asylum, seeking life. According to his wife, Makenda Kambana, he was on a government hit list, “They killed my father and they threatened to kill Jimmy. They were looking for him. We had no choice but to leave.” Earlier this week, on Tuesday, October 12, Mubenga boarded a plane for Angola, having lost his last battle for asylum in the UK. Within 50 minutes on the plane, he was dead.

Witnesses report that the guards, G4S private deportation `escorts’, jumped on Mubenga and throttled him to death.  Escort deportation has become big business. Most of the 11 immigration removal centers in the UK are run by private firms, in particular G4S, GEO Ltd or Serco.

MPs are calling for an investigation, the former chief inspector of prisons as well. Many informed will raise their voices and eyebrows and hands in surprise and dismay at the violence. Charges of `excessive force’ and `brutality’ are heard across the land.

But Jimmy Mubenga is dead. As are …

Kenyan asylum seeker Eliud Nyenze, who collapsed in April this year at Oakington detention center, run by G4S. Nyenze complained of intense pain, so bad he was reduced to crawling around on the floor, begged for painkillers, and was denied any sort of medical attention. He died in excruciating agony.

Manuel Bravo, an Angolan asylum seeker who in September 2005 was found dead, hanged, in Yarl’s Wood.

Joy Gardner, a Jamaican woman applying for compassionate leave to stay in Britain, killed in front of her five year old son and her mother, September 1993.

These are the prominent, the recorded, names that have come up in discussions of Jimmy Mubenga’s death. Their deaths, the manner of their deaths, the impunity of those who killed them, is said to haunt the story of Jimmy Mubenga. The passengers on that British Airways flight are described as “haunted by the last cries of a dying man.” Understandably. The nation is haunted.

But Jimmy Mubenga is dead, and will remain so. He is not haunted by the past, but his name, his death, is haunted by the future. He is haunted by those who continue to seek asylum.

On Wednesday, October 13, the day after Jimmy Mubenga was killed, Malawian Florence Mhango and her ten-year-old daughter Precious were again blocked from receiving asylum. Precious is seeking asylum because she and her mother fear that if returned to Malawi, by law her estranged father can force her into marriage.

On Thursday, October 14, it was announced that the four-year ban on repatriating Zimbabwean failed asylum applicants would be lifted. Why? Because the Unity Government of Zimbabwe has worked.  That many, including the Zimbabwean diasporic and overseas communities, believe that the situation is worsening, that a bloodbath may very well be imminent, is of no matter. That Robert Mugabe, on Friday, called for national elections whether or not the constitution has been passed, is of no matter.  That the violence continues is of no matter.

What is important is that the Zimbabweans be sent back, be sent out. Take EM, an MDC member raped and beaten by policemen in her own home, send her back, because she has failed the test of asylum. Take Pauline Enagbonma, an albino woman who fears for her safety as an albino in Zimbabwe, and send her and her three young children back, children who have spent the majority of their lives in the UK. Take Nokuthula Ngazana and her famous 18 year old daughter Gamu, and send them back. Nokuthula Ngazana came to the UK, with her daughter, to study. Home Office claims she filed for visa extension “out of time”, and since Gamu was listed as her dependent on the application, she too must leave. Send them all back, along with all those whose names go unrecorded.

Seize them and you shall seize the day.

Send them all back for they have failed the test of asylum. In the protection of the State, there is no excessive force, there is no brutality. Those notions, like Nokuthula Ngazana’s application, are out of time.

Precious Mhango haunts Jimmy Mubenga, Gamu Nhengu haunts Jimmy Mubenga. The tens of thousands of children, of women and men seeking asylum and those who in the future shall seek asylum in the United Kingdom, they haunt Jimmy Mubenga.

And Jimmy Mubenga is dead.

 

(Photo credit: irr.org.uk)

Black Looks: Kimpa Vita – a profile of courage

Today, July 2nd, is the anniversary of the death of Kimpa Vita who together with her baby (Kembo Dianzenza va Kintete) and her boyfriend, were burned to death on July 2nd 1706 by the Catholic church. I only just found out about Kimpa Vita – there is so much of our African and Diaspora history that is unknown to the majority of African people. Who was Kimpa Vita? Information is scarce but Kimpa Vita is one of a long line of courageous politicised Queens of the Kongo (parts of present day Angola and Congo) who fought against slavery and colonialists as early as the 15th century. Women such as Ndona Nzinga, Ndona Mafuta and Ndona Dondwa. The importance of Kimpa Vita is that she fought against slavery and exposed the racism and misogyny of the Catholic Church and also incorporated traditional religions with Christianity.

Beatrice Kimpa Vita was born in 1684 in the kingdom of Kongo. In 1704, at the age of 20 years, she started her non-violent mission of the liberation and the restoration of the kingdom, destroyed by the Portuguese. She fought all the forms of slavery, from those of the local practices to those linked to the European domination. She adapted Christianity to the African realities, teaching people that there are also Black saints in paradise, contradicting the Catholic priests who taught that there should ONLY be WHITE SAINTS. She led thousands of people to rebuild and to repopulate Mbanza Kongo, the capital, whereas King Pedro IV, imposed by the Catholic Church, had taken refuge in the mountains. That is a rare phenomenon, in a social context where the women were supposed to be submissive to the men.

Today she is remembered in “Kanda commune, northern Zaire Province” of Angola

I would really be interested in finding out more about these African Queens so if any one knows anything please do leave a comment.

(Sokari Ekine writes and organizes at Black Looks: http://www.blacklooks.org/. This post appeared originally there.)

(Image credit: diasporicroots.tumblr.com)

The babies’ give-and-take

Hillary Clinton visits Angola this week. The caregivers of Angola, the United States, and the world haunt her mission as they haunt this age.

Isn’t it curious that those who care for others can be called caretakers or caregivers? A caregiver is “a person, typically either a professional or close relative, who looks after a child, elderly person, invalid, etc.; a carer”. A caretaker is “one who takes care of a thing, place, or person; one put in charge of anything”. This explains why caregivers are mostly women, underpaid or not paid at all, who look after others in need: children, the sick, the elderly, you, me. This explains why there are caretaker governments and why there are no caregiver governments or States.

In Ireland, a caretaker is “a person put in charge of a farm from which the tenant has been evicted”. Angola is evicting thousands of people right now. 3000 family households were just bulldozed on the outskirts of Lusaka, to make way for gated condominium `communities’ and shopping malls: “`They arrived at around 3am,’ explained Rosa, a pregnant mother of five who has lived for three years in the area of two neighbouring informal settlements known as Baghdad and Iraq. “First came the police, and then the machines and they just started to knock down the houses. There was no warning, we had no choice but to leave because of all the police so we just grabbed what we could and then watched as they pulled down our homes,” said the 29-year-old.”

What happens to Rosa and her five children, what happens to that future child of hers, if it survives its birth? What happens to Rosa, now homeless, when she goes into childbirth? The maternal mortality roulette is now firmly stacked against her. And what happens then to the five or six kids?

Maki knows. Maki is a fictional character in “Porcupine”, the title story of Jane Bennett’s collection, Porcupine. Maki is Black, Zimbabwean, lesbian, a writer and student living in South Africa, and she knows: “The statistics have been stable for centuries; the babies of the caretakers died with much more frequency than those in the caretakers’ care. It’s not a riddle.”

Rosa and her children, the women, men, children of Baghdad and Iraq, in the southlands of Lusaka, they must just die. If that’s economic and social progress, if their eviction and death is part of community formation, then Angola is a proper Caretaker State.

And Angola is not alone. We are living in a Caretaker Era, on a globe of evictions in the name of progress, in a world of caretakers’ children dying. The statistics have been stable.

Take the United States, a wealthy country. With all its wealth, the United States health care system is “one of the worst of all the industrialized nations.” In 2000, the World Health Organization stopped ranking national health care systems, because the data, they said, became too complex. In their 2000 assessment, of 191 nation states, the United States ranked 37th, and this despite spending a higher portion of its gross domestic product on health than any other country.

So, what happens to the Rosa’s of the United States? What happens to their children?

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development Health Data 2009 report, “Most OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades.  In the United States, life expectancy at birth increased by 8.2 years between 1960 and 2006, which is less than the increase of almost 15 years in Japan, or 9.4 years in Canada. In 2006, life expectancy in the United States stood at 78.1 years, almost one year below the OECD average of 79.0 years….Infant mortality rates in the United States have fallen greatly over the past few decades, but not as much as in most other OECD countries.  It stood at 6.7 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2006, above the OECD average of 4.9.”

If Rosa is a caregiver in the United States, she’s an underpaid woman of color. She’s Black, Latina, Native American, Asian. What happens to Rosa, to her children, to her next child, if she’s, say, Black?  “Black infants in the United States are more than twice as likely as white infants to die in the first year of life. In New York City, infant mortality rates were 3 times higher for black infants than for white infants in 2001. Neonatal deaths, that is, deaths that occur within 28 days after delivery, account for nearly two thirds of all infant deaths. Similar to the racial disparities in infant mortality rates, black neonates are more than twice as likely to die, compared with white neonates.”

These deaths are called amenable mortality. That means they are considered amenable to health care. That means, they could have been prevented. They could be prevented. They can be prevented. In the United States, the worst industrialized nation in reducing amenable mortality, Rosa’s death will be another `amenable mortality’. That of her children as well.

Prior to the recession, in the United States, women were foregoing health care, which is like saying that caregivers have been foregoing living in gated communities and shopping at upscale malls. Around the world, women are `foregoing’ needed health care. Rosa is, her five children are, her impending sixth child is. They are foregoing housing, health care, education, water, food. Whether Rosa lives in Angola or in the United States is irrelevant. She is meant to die, her children are meant to die. The statistics have been stable for centuries. It’s not a riddle.

(Image Credit: Case Western Reserve University Health Disparities Blog)