Cuba Shows the Way

After disintegration of Soviet Russia Cuba faced tremendous hardships to manage its economy. Cuba's dependence on the former Soviet Union was so deep-rooted that even some die-hard optimists in the crisis-ridden left camp were not sure whether Castro's Cuba would be able to overcome the ordeal. To the surprise of all Cuba showed the world that they could move forward with self-respect and dignity despite continuing American blockade and stoppage of Russian aid. The threat of US invasion was very much real and yet they didn't budge an inch from their charted path of socialist reconstruction.

The decades-old American sanctions under all US presidents since the '60s have failed to kill the revolutionary spirit of Cubans and their resolve not to kowtow to the Uncle Sam. How a tiny island nation has succeeded in building genuine people's democracy has no parallel. Unlike China Cuba is a resource poor country and yet always responds to the emergency need of other poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Cuba's medical internationalism is exemplary. Cuba extends its super medical service to dozens of backward countries. It helped West Africa wipe out the deadly Ebola. And now when Corona virus Pandemic is sweeping the world, Cuba's doctors and medical students are treating the affected people even in advanced countries like Italy, notwithstanding hindrance created by the Washington lobby.

Tragically enough, for two years the Trump administration has been trying to stamp out one of Cuba's signature programmes—state-employed medical workers treating patients around the globe.

America forced Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia to send home thousands of Cuban medical workers after leftist governments allied with Havana. In truth Cuban doctors were replaced by ones friendlier to Washington.

In the city of Crema in the hard-hit Lombardy region of northern Italy, 52 Cuban doctors and nurses set up a field hospital with 32 beds equipped with oxygen and ICU facilities.

The American Administration has sought to cut off income to Havana as part of a long-term tightening of sanctions. Trump continues to discourage nations from taking medical help from Cuba despite the world-wide surge in Pandemic, arguing that their 'pay and conditions fall short of industry standards'. What a logic!

Cuba currently has about 37,000 medical workers in 67 countries, most in longstanding missions. Some doctors are serving without any pay. The most recent deployments of at least 593 doctors from the Henry Reeve Brigade—founded by Fidel Castro in 2005 and named after a 19th century American volunteer who fought for Cuban independence from Spain—have also been to Suriname, Jamaica, Dominica, Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Infection is a serious risk for those on the front lines. In Italy alone, over 10,000 medical workers have reportedly contacted the Corona virus and more than at least 69 doctors have died. Cubans are working in danger zones, risking their lives.

Cuban's officials have been proudly posting videos of doctors being applauded as they arrive to serve in make-shift hospitals, while giving a fitting reply to Trump's derogatory campaign.

Argentine government has also said they are discussing possible corona virus help from Cuba, and another mission should leave soon for Angola.

Cuba has a relatively high number of medical workers per capita—there are currently about 90,000 in the country of just 11 million.

Today every Cuban has access to a physician and nurse team. A preventive-oriented primary health care system reaches to all citizens of Cuba.

World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised Cuba, much to the dismay of America and the West, as the first country to eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child.

Come what may Washington cannot deny the importance of Cuba's role in international medical service. The WHO and the Pan American Health Organisation had been working with Cuba since 2010 to improve "access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing for both pregnant women and their partners, treatment for women who test positive and their babies, cesarean deliveries and substitution of breast-feeding".

Cuba has developed an innovative lung cancer vaccine called "Climax". The Americans too are in favour of its practical application.

It's a great misfortune of the world that Cuba is still under siege and sanction. Cuba's health care and education system which is free for every Cuban is one of the best in the world. Instead of attacking Cuba and its politically committed doctors Trump should be caring about the thousands of sick Americans who are suffering due to the inability of his government's failed health care delivery system.

Vol. 53, No. 17, Oct 25 - 31, 2020