Sunday, September 25, 2005

Cotton Harvest

Cotton harvest season is not a happy time for people in Central Asian dictatorships, as many are ripped from their own lives and conscripted to perform the hard labor. According to IWPR, in Turkmenistan, this includes pregnant women forced to work around toxic chemicals. This is not only bad in the most obvious way: Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov several months ago ordered the closure of all hospitals outside the capital, so people have nowhere to go to seek treatment:
"To make matters worse, Turkmenistan’s rural population has had limited access to healthcare since Niazov announced the closure of all hospitals outside the capital, Ashgabat, earlier this year. Clinics continue to operate in the regional centres, but offer only basic health services.

"The government also continues to meddle in the health service in other ways. A civil society activist with a women’s rights organisation in the Dashoguz region said doctors are under intense pressure to avoid giving diagnoses that might link patients’ health complaints to their work in the cotton fields.

"As a result, doctors often use the term 'acute respiratory disease' to fudge diagnoses of conditions such as conjunctivitis, bronchitis, persistent colds and laryngitis, which increase during the harvest season as a result of the use of chemicals.

"'For a long time now [doctors have been] forbidden to give diagnoses according to the [actual] illness [from which a patient is suffering],' said the activist. '[Instead], there is a list of approved diagnoses that doctors [must use] to classify an illness.'"


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