Cassava, Zinc, and Poverty

November 13th, 2014 by Dennis Salter

No, these don’t necessarily relate to each other, but I thought it would get your attention.  Cassava is the staple root “vegetable” of Ghana, Zinc is often used in the treatment of diarrhea, and poverty…well, you be the judge of what true poverty is.  I told you they don’t relate…but perhaps they do?


Today we had another case of malaria (it never seems to be lacking around here).  Diarrhea is always in the running with our patients here too.  We had zinc in our treatment plan for one of our patients.  Zinc is sometimes used to shorten the episode of diarrhea and to lengthen the time before a recurring episode.  Many diseases of poverty have diarrhea as one of the symptoms.


After a full day at the hospital, I went to the market area of Wenchi.  As I was waiting for Frank to come and meet me, I was sitting near the round about.  I saw a man selling cassava from a wheel barrow.  I imagined that he did this day in and day out as a small farmer, making his living.  I don’t recall what people pay for Cassava but it isn’t alot if I recall.  This man somehow makes his living on this.


Later on I walked with one of the hospital staff nurses, an ENT specialist, to his home.  He stays in housing owned by the hospital.  It was very humble and very small.  I met his two children, Blessing and Amazing Love.  I also met his sister.  His wife is a school teacher.  Now these are two very educated people in Ghana living in a very small, somewhat rundown place.  I have seen how the uneducated here live (most of Ghana I am told), and it is really beyond words.  My two bedroom apartment would look like a castle to them.  Our American poor would appear rich to these people.


Hey!  Cassava, zinc and poverty do relate!  At least here in Ghana.  You see, Cassava is a staple that at least some can afford (perhaps the more educated).  Here in Ghana, people live with diarrheal diseases such as malaria, much like the common cold is to Americans.  And here in Ghana, poverty really is poverty, not just having less than you “want”.  In Ghana, needs are often stretched!


It is quite an injustice to think about how much I have and how little these people have.  Be thankful each day for what you have and give as you are able to those who really do have a need.