Life

Radio review: Sobering accounts of other people's lives

From Our Own Correspondent Radio 4

Sometimes you forget what a privilege it is to live here and now.

From Our Own Correspondent is a large dose of reality – an eye opener to the unimaginable suffering meted out elsewhere.

These sobering stories of other lives are delivered in muted tones by journalists across the globe, often risking their own lives to tell the harsh truth about others' lives.

It is humbling.

El Salvador has some of the harshest and most stringently enforced abortion laws in the world. Benjaim Zand painted a stark picture of a machismo culture where chronic aggression towards women is the norm.

He told the story of a 19 year old woman who said she collapsed in the bathroom at home with a sharp pain in her stomach and had a miscarriage. She swears she did not know she was pregnant, but she was taken to hospital where the staff called the police.

She went on trial for aggravated homicide of her baby – abortion - and got 30 years' jail. You can get up to 40 years.

In Gambia, Colin Freeman met survivors of dictator Yahya Jammeh's HIV treatment programme.

His so-called miracle cure proved deadly. What happened was heart stopping.

Lamin Ceesay was the first person in Gambia to declare himself HIV positive. He wanted to end the stigma. But it brought him to the attention of Jammeh who, in early 2007, declared he had a miracle cure for Aids that involved a mixture of herbal medicine and spiritual healing.

Strangely, as Colin Freeman reported with tongue firmly in cheek, the cure only worked on Thursdays and Mondays.

It was denounced by health chiefs around the world as quackery of the most dangerous kind, but try telling the president of the country that he's talking nonsense and you'll soon hear the jail door clang.

When the invitation arrived for 10 volunteers to take part in a six month programme, it was an offer Ceesay felt he couldn't refuse.

He found himself in a clinic with armed guards at the door and a series of rules that included no taking of mainstream medicine including anti retroviral drugs.

He got so ill that he ended up in hospital – but he survived. His wife – and many others – did not.

Horror after horror is delivered with the measured, professional detachment of the foreign correspondent.

There is no waking up from such nightmares.

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