Why Are Cubans Protesting And How Can You Help?

Cuba -

Why Are Cubans Protesting And How Can You Help?

The small island nation of Cuba has one of the world's best healthcare systems even after an ongoing embargo and sabotage campaign by the United States. Recently protests have broken out due to growing inflation, economic woes, and the government's failure to contain COVID19.


In Cuba, there is a health center per 25,000, neighbourhood clinic per 5,000 people, and a personal family doctor per 500 people. In Havana alone, there is a clinic in virtually every street corner, each with a family doctor and nurse. Health workers nationwide have been out in full capacity visiting patients at every home. They have been educating residents about the new Cuban-made coronavirus vaccine and informing them it has arrived while setting up appointments for vaccination. 

Throughout 2020 Cuba largely kept the virus beyond its shores, the number of infected patients is is now rising fast, with a record-breaking 2,698 new daily cases on Saturday, and a seven-day average now above 2,000. Cuba is facing the biggest known surge in the Caribbean. Critics of the Cuban government's failure to contain the virus point out the government's approval of foreign tourists, according to sources on the ground, specifically Russian tourists. They claim that the virus was allowed in despite warnings from the healthcare community. Currently the island is undergoing an economic crisis and healthcare emergency as inflation and COVID continue to rise.


Cuba's miracle vaccine

Cuba recently announced that Abdala, one of five vaccines, developed indigenously in Cuba's own laboratories, a remarkable human achievement for a country with little to no resources, has an efficacy of 92.28 percent. This compares to Pfizer-BioNTech’s 95 percent, Moderna’s 95 percent and AstraZeneca’s 76 percent. Earlier Cuba also made another vaccines, Soberana-02, with an efficacy of 62 percent after two doses, with the booster bring this up to between 85 and 95 percent.

Despite the advances in medicine and the health care system working at full capactiy there have been serious drawbacks on the island. There are currently food and medicine shortages and growing inflation. And then there are the increasing numbers of unvaccinated infected patients. 


Why is Cuba so poor? Is it the communism?

Cuba's economy has been spun into a whirlwind thanks to the disappearance of the tourist industry which contracted the economy by 11%. The government was struggling to pay its bills internationally while the US continues its sabotage operations against the island. The US has been harassing Cuba due to the overthrow of the right-wing Batista dictatorship more than six decades ago. The Batista dictatorship accommodated US organized crime, human trafficking, and murdered more than 20,000 Cubans before the 1953 - 1959 Cuban revolution. The US has been trying to collapse the island's economy, food supply, and government ever since. Recently the US made it more difficult for expatriate Cubans to send money home.


Why is Cuba seeing new infections?

In November, Cuban authorities opened the borders and allowed tourists in. A day earlier Cuba had 27 new cases and the US had 159,003. Soon after numbers in Cuba began to rise and now there are more cases in under a week than for the entirety of 2020 and 1,253 people have died due to the virus. 2.2 million Cubans have received their first doses of the vaccines, but fewer than 1 million have received all doses. Cuba hopes to fully protect its population in 2021.


#SOSCuba legitimate or more US sabotage?

Recent protests against the government's handling of COVID19 have recently made headline news, and underscore the importance of health care to the Cuban population. Meanwhile, US based media outlets, botnets, and think tanks are attempting to use recent protests to amplify the destabilization of Cuba through propaganda and amplification of heavily curated anti-government voices or slogans. While the protests and calls to action are legitimate it is important to acknowledge the reality in Cuba vs the manufactured reality being produced and distributed in South Florida, US. Some protesters said they went on to the streets to join in after seeing what was happening on social media, which has become an increasingly important factor since the introduction of mobile internet. 

Protestors called for President Miguel Diaz-Canel to step down and thousands nationwide joined street protests from Havana to Santiago. Sunday, July 11, saw one of biggest anti-government demonstrations since 1994. More protests are expected as a combination of sanctions, government inefficiencies, and the pandemic has shut down tourism and slowed other foreign revenue flows. The country is highly dependent on the bulk import of food, fuel, and inputs for agriculture and manufacturing.


The real #SOScuba campaign for syringes

Due to the lack of resources on the island an international campaign has been launched to supply the island with the materials needed for syringes. The campaign is being led by Cuba’s diaspora and international solidarity movements. Global Health Partners (GHP), a New York-based non-profit, has launched a campaign to address a shortage of 20 million syringes. Bob Schwartz, GHP’s vice president, told international media, “To date, we’ve purchased four million syringes. We hope to purchase an additional two million” 

Cuba's health care system

In Cuba, health care is recognized as a human right for all people; health care is, therefore, a national priority. Cuba's health policy emphasizes prevention, primary care, community-based services, and citizen participation. Despite economic disadvantages, the country has achieved impressively high rankings on major health indicators. Cuba's health care experience proves that ideology matters in the provision of health care and challenges the assumption that high-quality health care requires massive financial investments. Based on the development of Cuba's health care system, a national health insurance and service delivery system is necessary for equitable distribution of health care services.

Cuba vs US health care

In 1959 Cuba's revolutionary government began overhauling the for-profit health system setup under the US backed Batista dictatorship which. Today, more than 30 years later, all its citizens enjoy free health care that is seamlessly integrated into the development of the country. The Cuban life expectancy exceeds that of the United States (72.5 vs. 71.9). In the past several years, health workers have eradicated polio, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and diphtheria. The amount of malnutrition among 1-15 year olds is 0.7%, compared with 5% in the United States. Initially based in hospitals, the Cuban health system evolved into a primary care system that is based in communities in the 1970s and 1980s. There are six hierarchical levels within the system: national health institutes and hospital centers (quaternary care-super specialty), provincial hospitals (tertiary care-high specialty), municipal hospitals (secondary care-specialty), area health centers (primary or community care) serving 25,000-30,000 people, sector polyclinics serving 4000-5000 people, and minipolyclinics served by a family physician team (family physician, nurse, and social worker) covering 600-700 people. As a result of the family physician team strategy, disease surveillance has been strengthened and comprehensive information about health status and neighborhood characteristics has been collected. Neighborhood residents determine their own health care and protection and volunteer brigades construct medical clinics and nurse houses for family doctors. Critics of Cuba's health care system say the doctors-to-population ratio is too high, and the amount of the country's gross national product that goes toward health care is too high (almost 15%). Contrary to the US, where the health care system has achieved impressive technological advancements and is among the largest industries, the health of millions of citizens is deteriorating. 

Cuba is expected to have the entire island vaccinated within six months. The government is yet to release a comprehensive plan detailing how to relieve the pressure from the out of control inflation. While protests continue to grow and address these legitimate concerns, the health care system is also continuing to inform, vaccinate, and care for the population.

If you want to held with Cuba's vaccine rollout, follow this link https://ghpartners.org/syringes4cuba/ to the Global Health Partners syringe collection campaign.



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