(FinalCall.com) – Cuban President Fidel Castro has challenged the American and European governments to duplicate its ability to educate and provide health professionals to serve the needs of impoverished people around the world.
The small island nation, only 90 miles from Florida, is capable of maintaining more than 16,000 health professionals working in Third World nations.
In a speech March 24, Pres. Castro noted that just from Cienfuegos province, one of the smallest on the island, nearly 600 of its doctors, dentists and technicians are part of those efforts.
“Let the U.S. and European governments try and find 500 doctors to carry out similar missions. They won’t find them, because they don’t have them; that human capital must be formed,” he said.
The countries receiving this humanitarian aid welcome it with open arms, but others have criticized Cuba for doing this especially as it relates to the work they’ve done helping Venezuela.
“They are ashamed and protest as if it were a crime or a conspiracy to take care of millions of excluded Venezuelans,” said Pres. Castro. “If they (the doctors) are Cuban agents, why don’t they send agents from the United States who are capable of living where the poor do, and practicing medicine in order to save so many lives among the marginalized people in those barrios?”
This work of sending health professionals around the world has led Nation of Islam Minister of Health and Human Services Abdul Alim Muhammad to see Cuba as “the most compassionate country on earth.”
“What does Cuba get for sending doctors around the world? They get nothing. They really care about people. They really believe that people deserve and have a right to health care. They believe people deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he told The Final Call.
“When I first visited Cuba in 1995, they had 50,000 doctors for their 10 million people. Now, they have 70-80,000 doctors for 12 million people. They don’t need any more doctors. They have a doctor in every community, school and factory. They have the best doctor-patient ratio in the world, with one doctor for every 200 people.”
The ratio in the United States is far worse.
“According to the National Medical Association there are only 23,000 Black doctors in practice to serve 40 million Black people. How many patients is that per doctor? It’s one doctor for every 2,000 patients. That’s Third World health standards. We can’t elevate the health conditions of our people with that ratio,” he explained.
“For Whites, the ratio is one doctor for every 300 people. Whites have six times greater access to a health professional than Blacks,” Dr. Muhammad pointed out. “There are whole areas around the country where there are no Black doctors.”
Most doctors agree that people tend to get medical care from people who look like them and are more likely to relate to their own experiences.
Dr. Muhammad said, “We don’t have the manpower to do what needs to be done to improve our health. We need six or seven times as many doctors as we have now. How will we get them? This speaks to the greatness of what Cuba is doing.”
What Cuba is also doing is offering to educate and train Black doctors from the United States for free. President Castro is offering a free medical school education for students committed to serving the poor.
Pastors for Peace is working with the Cuban medical school to recruit students. The country is offering 500 scholarships each year to students to attend medical school in Cuba. The group held a conference in Washington, D.C. March 27 to encourage students to apply.
“In 1998, we developed the Comprehensive Health Care Delivery Program,” Lazaro Herrera, First Secretary of Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C. told The Final Call. “We responded to the suffering of Central America, which requested international aid. Cuba gave free medical personnel that would be there as long as necessary. We now have more than 3,000 health professionals in Africa and Latin America. We teach people to take care of themselves and we use natural medicine.”
He continued: “We’ve treated more than five million people over the world. We’ve performed more than 28,000 deliveries and more than 48,000 surgical procedures. In Haiti, 75 percent of the people are treated by Cuban doctors. We helped to reduce the infant mortality rate in that country from 80 deaths per 1,000 live births to now 28 deaths per 1,000 live births. We’ve saved 90,000 lives in Haiti alone.”
Haiti is part of a growing list of countries receiving aid, which includes Gambia, Niger, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Paraguay.
“We have 20 medical schools that produce 1,000 new doctors each year. We’re working on opening a medical school in Africa with Cuban professors to better serve the people there,” Mr. Herrera said.