After God Comes Cuban Doctors
Cuban doctors wait to be dispatched to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
People often ask why I spend so much time and effort supporting Cuba. The answer is simple: under socialism they are able to help people, to act selflessly in the service of humanity. Under capitalism there is no way or incentive for doctors, no matter how good intentioned, to get organized to help those most in need (ie. those without money). While in Cuba, an abundance of highly skilled and motivated professionals is helped by a government to do what everyone wants to do = help those less fortunate.
There are currently more than 25,000 Cuban doctors helping people in the 3rd world. That is the equivalent of 500,000 American doctors working abroad. But we only have 800,000 doctors - a shortage that is growing worse every day (experts predict a gap of 200,000 needed doctors in 10 years). But even if we had the doctors, our government does nothing to help them get abroad (or enough to get them to inner cities and remote rural areas). But:
In Haiti, where President Rene Preval has turned to Cuba and Venezuela for help, Cuban doctors have held more than 8 million office visits and done more than 100,000 operations. 120 Haitian doctors have graduated from medical school in Cuba, with 600 more future doctors currently in school. It is Preval who recently said in Havana, "In Haiti, we say after God comes Cuban doctors.Â Meanwhile,Prevall has officially jointedPetroCaribee - the Venezuelan led (cheaper) oil distribution system. Haiti's previous (right wing) had avoided the cheaper oil despite the fact that most towns are without electricity because they can't afford to power their generators...
In Pakistan, Cuban doctors flooded the northernmountainouss region where an earthquake had killed 75,000 people. Recently in a meeting with the Doctors, the Pakistani foreign minister recalled how after the earthquake, a second wave of deaths caused by epidemics and the arrival of winter had been feared but was prevented Â he pointed out Â by international help, especially that provided by the Cuban medical brigade. 1.7 million patients were treated by Cuban doctors The minister thanked the Cuban governmentÂs gesture of donating all the rehabilitation equipment used by the physical therapist.
In Bolivia, 180 new clinics offering quality medical care to all, staffed largely by Cuban volunteer doctors, and a nascent government-sponsored literacy program with aid from Cuba and Venezuela, are gaining popularity among BoliviaÂs working people. 687 lives were saved and eyesight has been restored to 7,613 Bolivians in Bolivia and Cuba, at absolutely no cost. Meanwhile 5,000 scholarships to Bolivian doctors to study in Cuba are being provided. Havana is also providing reading materials and 30,000 television sets. The goal is to teach 720,000 Bolivians to read and write in two years.Though the US offers official development assistance to Bolivia, a May 14th NYTimes article's headline read ÂU.S. Aid CanÂt Win BoliviaÂs Love as New Suitors EmergeÂ (referring to the Cubans).
In Honduras, where Cuban doctors arrived after the devastating Hurricane Mitch in 1999, huge improvements are being seen. Before the Cubans arrived. the infant mortality rate was 30.8 per 1,000 live births and the maternal death rate 48.1 per 10,000 live births. With the arrival of the Cuban doctors in the country these indices have been reduced to 10.1 and 22.4 respectively, in the areas where they are working.