I expected many things on the way to Bugando Hospital but I didn’t anticipate George, “as in George W. Bush” he said. George is one of the many coffin shop-owners lining the last mile towards Bugando Hospital, which is a tertiary medical center that serves 13 million people. George has been in this business for the last seven years, and it’s provided a decent living for him to support his wife and three children. Before, he worked as a mechanic but made very little.
George shows us an unfinished coffin from his workshop.
George sells three to four coffins a day but “it depends on how many people die that day." Most have died from HIV/Aids, malaria, TB or other infectious disease the plague the country.
It was only noon and they had already sold two coffins today. One of George's employees is painting the name, birth and death dates on a cross for this morning's customer.
Prices range from $75 for a child's coffin to $280 for those who can afford to have one painted, adorned with decoration and lined with silk.
Death in Africa is just a fact of life, although hat may seem harsh to our American way of life. We may prolong death or become overwhelmed by the sadness of our loss, the seeming unfairness of an untimely death, but in Africa, they accept it and move on – maybe because of necessity, maybe because they are stronger, maybe they’ve just seen more.