Date: Tue, 5 May 98 22:44:30 CDT
U.S. report admits blockade of Cuba causes suffering, death
By Lyn Neeley, Workers World, 7 May 1998
For the first time, a U.S.-based medical group has exposed the effects of the U.S. blockade of Cuba.
An American Association for World Health study concluded this spring that 37 years of sanctions have "dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens . . . caused a significant rise in suffering and deaths" and "wreaked havoc with the island's model primary health-care system."
The AAWH sponsored trips by U.S. doctors and other experts to study Cuba's health system in 1995 and 1996. They visited Cuban health facilities, interviewed hundreds of professionals, patients and families, and collected official U.S. and Cuban data.
In "Denial of Food and Medicine: the Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health & Nutrition in Cuba," the AAWH reports that Cubans suffer malnutrition, poor water quality, and lack of medicines, medical equipment and access to new medical information.
The document asserts "a humanitarian catastrophe has been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high level of budgetary support for a health-care system designed to deliver primary and preventative health care to all of its citizens. Cuba still has an infant mortality rate half that of the city of Washington, D.C."
The 1992 "Cuban Democracy Act" severely tightened sanctions at a time when Cuba's economy was weakened from 30 years of U.S. sanctions combined with the loss of $4.6 billion a year in trade with the USSR.
The AAWH reports that the law has created "new and almost insurmountable obstacles to free trade." Sanctions now apply to companies that are subsidiaries of U.S. corporations in other countries, and to companies whose products contain U.S. components.
BLOCKADE BARS VITAL MEDICINES
As U.S. corporations buy or merge with European companies that previously traded with Cuba, Cuban trade is curtailed further. Now Cuba has access to less than half the new medicines on the world market. Cuba can't buy certain life- saving medical supplies anywhere.
The AAWH study found the following:
* The number of surgeries performed in Cuba between 1990 and 1995 dropped by 350,000.
* Fatal heart attacks have increased because the U.S pacemaker monopoly won't sell to Cuba.
* New anti-cancer drugs and medicines for AIDS are not accessible to Cubans.
* Children undergoing chemotherapy vomit 28 to 30 times a day because they don't have the drug that prevents this side effect.
After the 1959 revolution, Cuba built a water system that supplied safe drinking water to nearly all Cubans. Now, lack of equipment and chemicals for treating water have caused a shortage of clean water for 30 percent of the population. This has led to increased deaths and illnesses from water- borne diseases.
The "Cuban Democracy Act" prohibits selling food, fertilizer, pesticide or animal feed to Cuba. This has caused a 33-percent drop in calorie intake there. Food shortages have caused low birth weight in babies, and a devastating outbreak of nervous disorders.
The report concludes that U.S. sanctions are "driving the system toward crisis and causing significant suffering and death [although] a Herculean effort is under way to try to maintain the previous high standard of health care" that is "essentially free of charge to the population."
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