Posted on: Thursday, April 28, 2005
A MADRE Position Paper
Proponents of neoliberal economics routinely claim that the only way to improve healthcare in poor countries is through free trade, privatization, and corporate deregulation. Yet Cuba demonstrates that high standards of health and healthcare are attainable if governments meet their obligation to ensure health care for all. In Cuba, free, comprehensive, high-quality healthcare is guaranteed to everyone, as are education, food, and other resources needed to maintain good health. As a result, Cuba, a poor country by most standards, has a life expectancy of 77 years (the same as the US), and some of the highest global rates of child immunization (96 percent) and school enrollment (94 percent).
In fact, the biggest threat to public health in Cuba comes from the United States. Cuba is being subjected to the longest-running, most severe embargo in US history, which prevents Cuba from purchasing urgently needed food and medicine, with grave consequences for Cuban women and their families. Every year for the past 12 years, the UN General Assembly has formally condemned the embargo as a violation of international humanitarian law. Members of the US Congress have repeatedly introduced bills to end the policy, which was first imposed in 1961. Even amongst Cuban-Americans-commonly cited as the strongest proponents of the embargo-there is a growing call for ending the policy. But successive US Administrations have been obsessed with using the embargo to destabilize the Cuban government in order to dominate Cuba and the hemisphere at large.
A Model for Global Healthcare
In 1989, with the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost 85 percent of its foreign trade. The US exploited the economic crisis by escalating the embargo and intensifying pressure on Cuba's healthcare system. Throughout the 1990s, medicines, supplies, and equipment-ranging from pens and paper to advanced technology-became even more scarce. Incidence of infectious disease and parasitic infection rose, as did death rates from tuberculosis, typhoid, and diarrheal diseases.
But even during the worst years of the crisis (1989-1993), the government guaranteed that vulnerable sectors of the society did not bear the brunt of the embargo. So while millions of Cubans have endured hunger as a result of food shortages, equitable food distribution policies have ensured that scarcity meant weight loss for most adults, not malnutrition for children or pregnant women. Similarly, while the 1990s saw a rise in low birth weights, Cuba's National Low Birth Weight Reduction Program prevented increased infant mortality. Indeed, despite the embargo, Cuban infant mortality rates are lower than those of Washington, D.C. Moreover, Cuba has maintained its commitment to a preventative healthcare system that is a model for most of the world. Its programs for treating and preventing HIV/AIDS have held Cuba's infection rate to 0.07 percent, one of the lowest in the world. And Cuba has been at the forefront of the global struggle to ensure access to effective antiretroviral medicines for anyone living with AIDS.
Cuba Policy Under Bush: From Bad to Worse
Instead of heeding the calls of public opinion and much of the US Congress, the Bush Administration has maintained the embargo and placed even tighter restrictions on travel to Cuba, as well as on money and other goods that can be sent by Cuban-Americans and Cubans in the US to family members on the island. Since 2004, family visits to Cuba by Cuban-Americans and Cuban nationals living in the US are allowed only once every three years (if the US Treasury Department grants the traveler a specific license), instead of every year on a general license. And the length of these visits has been reduced from 21 days to 14 days. The new restrictions thereby deny Cubans millions of dollars worth of financial and material support on which they depend because so many essential goods are unavailable or unaffordable, in large part because of the US embargo. Moreover, now visits and financial remittances can only be made to immediate, as opposed to extended, family members. Many Cubans, whose families extend beyond the US nuclear family model, find it particularly galling that George Bush claims the right to determine who is and who is not part of their family.
Bush has also allocated $90 million more to foment opposition to the Cuban government from within Cuba (a violation of international law) through propping up "dissident groups" and conducting propaganda operations that incite Cubans to overthrow their government. And Bush severely restricted the type of travel licenses that allowed MADRE and other organizations to bring educational delegations to Cuba. The travel ban, opposed by 80 percent of US citizens and the majority of Congress, violates the right of every US citizen to freedom of travel. Moreover, barring US citizens from meeting Cubans in their country, developing friendships, and witnessing firsthand the harmful impact of the embargo on ordinary Cuban families makes it easier for the Bush Administration to demonize the Cuban government and deny the human suffering caused by the embargo.
MADRE works to change US policy towards Cuba, calling for an end to the embargo, the travel ban, and Bush's latest restrictions, and for normalized relations that respect Cuban sovereignty and the human rights of women and families in Cuba. MADRE works in partnership with health professionals in Cuba to deliver life-saving medicines and medical supplies to combat AIDS, breast cancer, pediatric diseases, and other public health threats in Cuba that are exacerbated by the US embargo. In the international arena, MADRE works with the Federation of Cuban Women to call for an end to the US embargo.
Archives"Press Room" Home April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001
Kat Noel, Website & Media Coordinator
PHONE: +1 212 627 0444
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
The Right to Heal: 11 Years After Iraq Invasion, U.S. Urged on Reparations for War's Enduring Wounds (Democracy Now!, March 26, 2014)
Protests Call Iraq's New Family Law 'Legalization of Pedophilia' (Rudaw, March 10, 2014)
Haiti: the neoliberal model imposed on the country is failing its citizens (The Guardian, February 5, 2014)
Human rights group slams Iraq over treatment of women in prison (Miami Herald, February 2, 2014)
New Ways to Evaluate Impact (Stanford Social Innovation Review, January 24, 2014)