A Gift of Health from Cuba

Victims of typhoon Reming (international name- Durian) were recent beneficiaries of almost two tons of medicines and vaccines from the Cuban government, a socialist country with one of the world’s most advanced health system.


Responding to a request for support from the Philippine government, the Republic of Cuba delivered on March 9 approximately two tons of medicines worth US$22,000 as donation for the victims of typhoon Reming (international name – Durian).

Typhoon Reming caused devastation in the province of Albay. More than 1,000 casualties were reported by the Philippine government. The number is still increasing because more are dying from hunger. The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Feb. 25 that flood victims have suffered increased acute respiratory infections, diarrhoeal and skin diseases, and dengue fever.

The Republic of Cuba, through Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Jorge Rey Jimenez, turned over to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo the donation of medicines and vaccines. The DFA secretary then turned over the donation to Dr. Maria Virginia Ala, Officer-in-Charge of the Bureau of International Health Cooperation, Department of Health (DoH), the Philippine government agency that facilitates the distribution of medicines to the typhoon victims.

“Cuba is not a rich country but we try to share what we have,” Jimenez said in an interview with Bulatlat.

The ambassador said Cuba’s bilateral relations with the Philippines have been going on for more than 60 years.


A year after the January 1959 victory of the Cuban revolution against the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, the U.S. government unilaterally imposed a blockade against Cuba. The Cuban government, in its annual report for 2006 and prospects for 2007, said the U.S. government has done such sanctions “to use hunger and desperation to crush the will of the Cuban people so that it ceases to support its legitimate government.”

Due to the blockade, Jimenez said Cuba has no access to international banks because Washington’s power to “block aid via the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).”

Cuba has been waging a socialist revolution since 1959.

Although the country has been subjected to economic, trade and financial sanctions for over 45 years, the Cuban government reported in January that in 2006 its economy grew faster than any other country in Latin America. Its GDP growth for 2006 was 12.5 percent. This is 7.2 percent higher than the average rise in GDP of Latin American countries which stands only at 5.3 percent.

“These advances reflect a trend of gradual consolidation of the economy which has been apparent since 2004,” the Cuban report said.

The Republic of Cuba also boast of a 90 percent literacy rate, Jimenez said, a rate comparable only to first world countries. “Literacy was the first task of the socialist government,” Jimenez added.

Advanced health system

“Cuba has one of the world’s most advanced health care system,” Jimenez said.

From having only 6,000 doctors before 1959 with half of them leaving Cuba after the war, Cuba now has 70,594 doctors, 10,554 dentists, 2,753 pharmacists, 89,462 nurses and nursing auxiliaries, and 94,286 technicians and other paramedics.

It has reduced its infant mortality rate to only 5.3 percent, “a rate matched only by industrialized countries,” Jimenez said.

“Some years ago people in Cuba just die and nobody knows why. They die of hunger or diabetes or tuberculosis or parasitism,” the ambassador said.

In recent years, however, nobody in Cuba has died of hunger nor diarrhea, a common disease in third world countries, and the deadly malaria, a mosquito-borne disease also prevalent in under-developed countries, Jimenez said.

To prevent common diseases, the Cuban National Pharmaceutical Industry has produced vaccines against influenza, meningococcemia, hepatitis-B and certain cancers: in the cervix, mouth and throat, and the lungs.

Health and education account for 22.6 percent of the Cuban government’s budget to ensure that both services can continue to be free of charge for the entire 11 million population.

Proof of a healthy populace is the Cuban’s life expectancy rate, Jimenez said. In its 2006 report, the Cuban government said their biggest health problems are chronic non-communicable diseases and the “aging of our population.”

“Cuban people live longer nowadays,” Jimenez said. Sixty-five-year-olds have a life expectancy of 20 more years and those aged 80 years old are expected to live for eight more years.

Jimenez said the Cuban government expects 60-year-olds to represent 25 percent of its population in 2025 due to birth-rate reduction and the elimination of an important group of diseases.(Bulatlat.com)

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