by Emily J. Kirk and John M. Kirk and Norman Girvan
Global Research, April 21, 2010
The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti caused some 230,000 deaths, left 1.5 million homeless, and has directly affected 3 million Haitians — 1/3 of the population. On March 31, representatives of over 50 governments and international organizations gathered at the United Nations Haiti Donor Conference to pledge long-term assistance for the rebuilding of Haiti. At the conference, Cuba made arguably the most ambitious and impressive pledge of all countries — to rebuild the entire National Health Service. While the efforts of other government have been praised, those of Cuba, however, have largely been ignored in the media.
The aim of Cuba’s contribution is to completely reconstruct the Haitian health care system — and to do so in a sustainable manner. The new system will be based on the Cuban model, embracing primary, secondary and tertiary health care, in addition to the training of additional Haitian doctors in Cuba. In summary:
The primary level will include 101 clinics to treat annually an estimated 2.8 million patients, perform 1.3 million emergency operations, deliver 168,000 babies, and provide 3 million vaccinations.
The secondary level will be provided through 30 community hospitals. They will have the capacity to treat annually 2.1 million patients, and provide 1 million emergency surgeries, 54,000 operations, 276,000 electro-cardiograms, 107,000 dental exams, 144,000 diagnostic ultrasounds, and 487,000 laboratory tests. In addition, due to the high numbers of poly-traumatized patients, the 30 rehabilitation rooms will be included throughout the country and will provide 2.4 million therapeutic treatments for some 520,000 patients.
The tertiary level of health care will be delivered by the Haitian Specialties Hospital, staffed by 80 Cuban specialists. It will contain various clinical departments, and will be used for research and teaching, as well as the further training of Haitian professionals who will gradually replace the Cuban professionals.
Finally, 312 additional medical scholarships are to be provided for Haitian students to study in Cuba.
What is also significant point is that these are not just ‘pledges’ from Cuba, but rather a development of medical assistance which has been provided over the last eleven years, and dramatically increased since the earthquake. A Cuban medical brigade has been in Haiti since 1999 and has “a presence in 127 of the 137 Haitian communes, saved 223,442 lives, treated 14 million people, performed 225,000 operations and delivered 109,000 babies.”
Furthermore much of the promised programme is already in place, as “post-quake, 23 of these primary care health centers, 15 community reference hospitals and 21 rehabilitation rooms are up and running.”
The cost of the Cuban programme over a ten-year period is estimated at $690.5 million — using 50 percent of international prices for services of this kind. This is an enormous amount for a small developing country (11.2 million population); and moreover one that has been under a crippling economic blockade from its powerful neighbor for nearly half-a-century.
It is even more notable when compared to those of other governments, particularly those of industrialized countries.
For example, Cuba’s contribution in relation to its GDP is 155 times that of the United States, which pledged $1.15 billion. Among other G-7 countries, France, the former colonial power, pledged $188.93 million, Germany $53.17 million, Japan $75 million, and Canada $375.23 million, while Italy and the United Kingdom, though not specifically listed, were probably included in the $203.19 million pledge that was made in the name of “EU Remaining” group of countries.
Hence in absolute terms the monetary value of Cuba’s contribution is almost 4 times that of France, 12 times that of Germany, and almost twice that of Canada. Indeed, excluding the U.S., Cuba’s contribution is more than the rest of the G7 countries combined, as well as 35% more than the contribution of the World Bank ($479 million). In all, 59 pledges were made from governments, regional blocs and financial institutions.
In other words, while other countries are pledging money, Cuba is actively creating an entire sustainable health care system which will treat 75% of the Haitian population, and save hundreds of thousands of lives.
And yet, in spite of the extraordinary value of this commitment, it has been largely ignored by the principal North American media.