Zimbabwe was the first African country I visited – it was 1995, I was 21 years old and it fulfilled all my dreams of what I imagined Africa to be. It was pure adventure, from the hustle and heat of the capital Harare, to travelling across the country on red, dusty roads with people carrying all manner of things on their heads and finally the rushing waters of the Zambezi. I fell in love with the enormity of the landscape and its smokey dusk after brilliant sunsets – so different from what I’d known growing up in London.
Then there was the amazing generosity of the people. I was travelling with a friend and it seemed that everyone we met offered us an unexpected kindness, buying us meals, putting us up in their homes, going out of their way to show us around their country, of which they were so proud.
And so I’ve found it heartbreaking to watch this wonderful country trapped in a social and economic downward spiral. One of the scariest moments of my life was being sucked into a whirlpool after being thrown while white water rafting down the Zambezi. It felt like I was underwater for a very long time and I didn’t know if I would ever come up for air. Maybe today, Zimbabwe is on its way up for air. Maybe, as The Times reports, it really is ‘A new dawn’.
As protesters gather on the streets today, our chief executive, Sir Nicholas Young, has spoken out about the need for G20 to think beyond saving jobs, to saving lives.
I hope that the G20 leaders do as much listening as they do talking. For example, Morgan Tsvangirai talks today, in The Times, about Zimbabwe and other countries needing to be more than beneficiaries of emergency aid – the way the West does business with Africa needs to change, so that developing countries can become true economic partners and start to meet their own needs.
And the needs are great, as the recent cholera and food crisis in Zimbabwe shows all too clearly. But until our world leaders manage to find a better global economic model, the Red Cross will continue providing emergency aid. And to do this we need your help.
If you’re interested in finding out more or making a donation please visit our Zimbabwe & Region Appeal.