The world is still suffering from the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inflation, supply chain crises, and shortages of medicines and basic goods continue to affect most of the world’s countries, especially those less developed and besieged by the major powers, such as Cuba, but this is not news. What can governments do to counteract a future health crisis and can we overcome the dominate greed of the developed countries when it comes to public health?
These days, the world’s top health officials are meeting in Geneva as part of the 76th World Health Assembly, which is once again dedicated to the health emergency that has paralyzed the world, and where a big question has come to light: Are we prepared to contain a new pandemic?
Two weeks ago, the World Health Organization declared that Covid-19 no longer posed a threat; however, the fear of a new health crisis is latent and, what is worse, “the world would still be unprepared to face it,” according to those gathered at the world health meeting and still there are no solutions and no consensus.
In Geneva, the world is missing a unique opportunity to prevent a future pandemic. Most countries, especially the major powers, defend their intellectual property rights and demand rules for sharing medical products developed during a pandemic, which is the main reasons why millions of people still have not received a vaccine against the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, and why it continues to claim thousands of victims. It seems increasingly difficult for the world to reach a substantial compromise.
Cuba is a great oasis in the midst of this stark reality, where health is a privilege and not a right even after a deadly pandemic. The Cuban Minister of Health, Jose Angel Portal Miranda, with tremendous humility, spoke to the leaders gathered in Geneva about the need for a new vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. It seems increasingly difficult for the world to reach a substantial compromise. He went on to talk about the accomplishments of Cuba despite being a small blockaded nation greatly lacking in resources. The development of anti-COVID vaccines of its own, the special care patients received, the heroic work of health personnel inside and outside Cuba, are some of those feats.
“Cuba is proud of the over 600 thousand health workers who have brought hope and life to millions of people over the past 60 years, almost always in extremely complex scenarios, especially during the pandemic. Health professionals and technicians saved lives in distant lands, with great courage,” Portal commented.
On May 23, 1963, Cuba sent its first medical brigade to Algeria at the request of its Prime Minister Ahmed Ben Bella, who was leading a nation recently liberated from French colonialism.
Since then Cuban health workers have treated 3 million people and performed over 16 million surgeries in 165 countries. Today, Cuba has 57 medical brigades made up of 22,632 participants deployed in five continents.
“Countries need to strengthen and perfect their health systems, challenges that must be worked on constantly and with total responsibility to achieve real access to health services for all people,” said the health minister of an island where no Cuban needs to pay for medical assistance.
“The world needs to pay attention to the development of resilient health systems to move towards universal health coverage, guaranteeing the right to health for all and the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals,” the Cuban Health Minister added.
While the great powers dispute patents, and merchandise on the health of the people, Cuba is growing bigger and reaffirms its essence of solidarity, a path drawn by Fidel and that today the new generations continue to build.
“We will continue to prioritize development based on science, the health of the people over wealth, solidarity over selfishness in harsh times, despite the economic crisis, pandemics, and blockade,” the minister concluded. The world should be more like Cuba to become a better place.