Stories

The Disease with No NameOn October 25, 2002, 26-year old Zanele Mavana is slowly dying in her home in a rural village of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Her three children, ages 10, 8, and 4, watch as their mother's bones become more visible. She no longer has the strength to get out of bed; her diarrhea has stained the sheets as she waits helplessly for someone to clean her. To reach the nearest hospital, she would have to walk for hours, first through the open, hilly field surrounding her home, followed by mud roads, then gravel roads, and finally a tarred road.

As Mohammad Afzal approached the health facility, located on a long, dirt road in a southwestern province of Afghanistan, he saw the darkness inside. Like so many he had visited before, the clinic does not have electricity or running water. He passes the large group of women sitting outside with children in their arms, trying to shield themselves from the hot summer sun.

In the raw poverty of the slums of Kolkata—formerly known as Calcutta—visibly malnourished children with bloated stomachs and patchy hair run barefoot over paths in which human and animal waste mix with mud and garbage. Hundreds of dwellings made of straw, mud, tin, and cardboard are squeezed into areas the size of one small city block. In these cramped dwellings, often only an arm-span in width, entire families live with no running water, no electricity, and no furniture.

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