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Socialist Cuba leading international fight against Ebola

By Masao Suzuki |
October 12, 2014
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San José, CA - The Ebola epidemic has already killed as many as 5000 people in the west African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It is now spreading to other countries such as Nigeria and Senegal in Africa, the U.S and Spain. One of the hardest hit sectors has been health workers, who make up as much as 10% of the victims. There has been a small but growing number of countries sending health workers to help the effort to contain the epidemic. Socialist Cuba stands out in leading this aid effort.

So far Cuba has already sent 165 health care workers to west Africa, more than any other government, despite it being a small nation of only 11 million. France, which is the former colonial ruler of much of west Africa and which has the largest number of military bases in Africa, has only plans to construct one clinic in Guinea with 15 French medical workers. The U.S. has started construction of a clinic in Liberia and plans to staff it with 85 Public Health Service officers, but funding for increasing the effort is being held up Congress. In contrast, funding for expanding U.S. bombing in Iraq and Syria sailed through Congress.

Cuba has a long history of international medical aid after natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Pakistan and the devastating hurricane in Haiti. In fact Cuba provides more international medical workers than the all the wealthy imperial countries of the G-7 combined. Cuba also has an outstanding medical and public health system for a developing country. Cuba’s average life span is about the same as in the U.S. and Cuba has a slightly lower infant mortality rate (number of babies that die in the first year of their life) than the U.S. This comes despite the fact that the U.S. spends almost 20 times as much per person on health care as Cuba.

Socialist Cuba has made health care a priority and has the highest number of health workers compared to its population. Death and illness rates from contagious diseases - which are the bane of many Third World countries - are as low as in rich countries such as the U.S. Cuba’s medical system has learned to overcome shortages of medical supplies caused by the U.S. trade embargo, which helps their international aid workers overcome similar problems in other poor countries. Cuba has also made strides in biomedical research, beginning with a vaccine for meningitis B in the 1980s to more recent anticancer drugs.

In contrast, the profit-driven health care makes care extremely expensive in the U.S., which spends 50% more than Norway and Switzerland, which are number two and three in terms of health care spending per person. While some of the best health care in the world can be found in the U.S., the wide range of social and economic inequality and lack of access to health care make for some of the worst outcomes among richer nations. One example of this inequality is in the infant mortality rate, where African American babies are more than twice as likely to die in their first year as white babies.