Medical Journals for CUBA

In fall of 1998, International Peace for Cuba Appeal delivered the fourth installment of the Medical Journals for Cuba project, 4-1/2 tons of up-to-date journals to Cuba. Each year since 1994 IPCA activists and supporters have been able to assemble a large shipment of badly-needed medical journals in support of the Cuban people and their right to maintain adequate, up-to-date healthcare services.

The U.S. government’s hostility to Cuba is no secret. Since 1961 the U.S. has maintained a blockade of the island nation, attempting to forcibly isolate it from normal trade and international relations.

Withstanding the pressures of the world’s only superpower has been no easy task for Cuba, and has strained its various social programs, including its renowned healthcare services.

Despite the recognized accomplishments and excellence of Cuba’s healthcare system, free to all Cubans and praised by UNICEF and the World Health Organization as a model for less-industrialized countries, Cuban medical professionals often have difficulty obtaining current medical research and information, which is integral in sustaining a viable healthcare sector. Access to the latest medical publications has been heavily restricted by a number of provocative U.S. actions in recent years. In 1992 the Torricelli Act made it illegal for subsidiaries of U.S. corporations to do business in Cuba.

This caused severe problems for the Cuban medical establishment by blocking access to medical journals, and by creating shortages of both available medicines and necessary medical equipment. The ensuing crisis was compounded by the bill’s deleterious impact on Cuba’s import-dependent food supply, which resulted in increased malnutrition and hunger.

The punitive policies were bolstered in 1995 by passage of the notorious Helms-Burton Act. Among the provisions of this Act are the refusal to grant any foreigner who does business in Cuba an entry visa to the U.S., stiffer penalties for U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba, and the "right" of U.S. citizens, including naturalized Cuban exiles, to sue Cuba in U.S. courts for loss of property.

This last provision, which implies that the U.S. has legal jurisdiction over property owned by Cuban citizens or the Cuban government, is an obvious affront to and violation of Cuban sovereignty.

Each of these measures is intended to heighten the political and economic isolation of Cuba, to erode its ability to provide necessary social services like healthcare, and ultimately to induce the collapse of the socialist Cuban government. The cruelty of U.S. policy is brought into greater perspective when the achievements of the embattled Cuban healthcare system are considered. Unlike the U.S., the Cuban government takes the view that healthcare is a universal right, not an amenity provided only to those who can afford it. Hospitalization and medical care are free for all and are available on an equal basis to all citizens. Continuing care for seniors and special programs for people with HIV or AIDS, both of which are often extremely expensive, further demonstrate the scope of available treatment and the commitment to caring for all citizens of the Cuban healthcare system. The benefits of comprehensive care have been numerous.

Even now, under renewed U.S. pressure, infant and child mortality rates continue to be the lowest of any country in Central or South America, and compares favorably with many industrialized countries.

Diseases that are present or common in many poor or less industrialized countries have been wiped out in Cuba. The example set by Cuba’s healthcare system is now in grave jeopardy. Services are being cut back, stocks of many basic medicines and supplies are in short order or exhausted, and current medical research and information is hard to obtain. The result of this austerity is not hard to imagine; the Cuban people are being made to do without and they are suffering for it. Health indexes show affected life expectancy rates, increased incidence of disease, and a decrease in the Cuban quality of life. Healthcare providers and the Cuban government are struggling to reverse these trends, but they need the assistance and support of concerned individuals in the U.S. The Medical Journals Project of Peace for Cuba was begun in 1994 with the goal of gathering and providing professional medical publications to the Cuban Ministry of Health.

Noting the crisis brought about by the blockade, Dr. David Levinson, an initiator of the project, has explained that "if we could collect and send new and used medical journals, we might undo a bit of the damage."

The labor involved in soliciting and collecting donations, cataloguing publications by title, year, and issue, packing them, and finally shipping them to Cuba is all volunteer. Nevertheless, the four shipments that the project has sent since its inception have consisted of over 200 titles and a combined weight of nearly 16 tons. In correspondence with us directly after the second shipment, Dr. Geremías Hernández Ojito, director of Havana’s National Medical Sciences Information Center (part of the Ministry of Health) assured us that the journals "were of great use, and as important to healthcare as medicine." We would like to continue our support of the Cuban people and their exemplary healthcare system, and to expand on our past success. Whether medicines or medical information are withheld from Cuba, the result is the same. Innocent people are made to go without care, and to endure unnecessary hardship and deprivation with increasingly injurious results.

We ask you to join us in opposing the U.S. administration’s cruel and callous policies toward Cuba, and to contribute to the Peace for Cuba’s Medical Journals Project as a means of offering real assistance to the people of Cuba.

Medical Journals Project of International Peace for Cuba Appeal

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Peace for Cuba’s Medical Journals Project

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International Peace for Cuba Appeal
2489 Mission St. Rm. 28
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