The Guardian • Issue #2099

Cuban healthcare – struggles and victories

Cuba rally, Perth.

Cuba rally, Perth.

First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez met with Winnie Byanyima, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) earlier this May. Part of a campaign to end AIDS by 2030, the meeting saw Cuba express a continued will to cooperate as leaders of the fight against HIV worldwide.

Díaz-Canel emphasised the importance of combining community and multidisciplinary approaches to HIV programs, while also stressing the challenges facing Cuba’s healthcare system. Cuba began work with UNAIDS in the 1990s. In 2015, Cuba became the first country to receive recognition from WHO for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. Cuba’s healthcare successes have been noted in other areas, such as their leading role in fighting COVID-19 around the world.

Cuba’s healthcare system faces significant struggles, however, particularly with supplies of equipment and medicines. The US blockade of Cuba, a unilateral policy frequently condemned by the majority of countries at the UN, is the largest obstacle to Cuba’s acquisition of healthcare resources. Eduardo Martínez, president of BioCubaFarma, has noted that while funds are available for raw materials, the refusal from banks to cooperate due to the blockade prevents payments from being made to suppliers. In 2021, when Cuba was fighting against the Delta variant of COVID-19, the US blockade denied the Cuban people access to medical oxygen. Even spare parts to repair Cuba’s sole oxygen plant were blocked. Díaz-Canel labelled the denial of oxygen a “genocidal act of the US government.”

Despite these challenges, the Cuban people have displayed remarkable fortitude and resourcefulness in maintaining their healthcare system. Cuba developed five of its own vaccines for COVID-19, and has attempted to supplement its medical equipment with whatever resources are available, such as repurposing diving equipment to produce medical oxygen.

Cubans have used repurposed soft-drink bottles to make medical equipment, and have found ways of making spare parts denied to them by the blockade.

Cooperation with allies is also essential. Earlier this month, members of the Communist Party of Australia, the Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU), and over one thousand people from around the world met in Havana to express solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban people. Events like this present opportunities to address struggles, such as the fight against the criminal blockade, but also to celebrate the achievements of the working peoples of Cuba.

Viva Cuba!

End the blockade!

Readers can contribute against the blockade of Cuba by: Contacting your local Australia-Cuba Friendship Society Branch, and donating or joining in their next action, and/or contacting your Federal MP and Senators, letting them know you want Australia to oppose the blockade.
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