In Cuba Health Care is a Human Right. Why not in the U.S.?

ELAM Students May, 2008

Photo: Bill Hackwell

Join Us in Washington DC, the 3rd Days of Action Against the Blockade 9/11-16, 2017

A six-year-old Cuban girl named Naomi was battling brain cancer and desperately needed a U.S.-patented drug called Temozolomide. She couldn’t get it, Sacha Llorenti, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, told a recent meeting of the General Assembly because American authorities refused to allow the medicine to be exported to Cuba. Why? Because the United States government has maintained an economic blockade – including of vital medicines – against the Cuban people for more than 50 years.
Meanwhile, Judy Ingels, a 74-year-old California woman with stage four lung cancer had to sneak into Cuba last spring in violation of American travel restrictions in order to recieve her first injections of Cimavax, a promising and widely prescribed Cuban-developed drug that could help prolong her life for months, even years. Why?Again, a number of pioneering life-saving and life-altering medications aren’t available to Americans because the Trump administration seems more interested in playing exile politics than in improving health care for citizens in both countries.  Cubans and Americans – particularly Cuban and American health care professionals – need to talk about the impact of the blockade on health and how to end a policy that helps no one.

That’s the purpose of this September’s “Days of Action Against the Blockade” in Washington (Sept. 11-15, 2017). Organized by the International Committee as part of the International Campaign for a Just U.S. Policy on Cuba, the week will include a series of events and meetings involving Cuban health professionals and their American counterparts, as well as a number of American graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine.

ELAM, as it is known, is a unique international medical school created by the Cuban government in 1999 to train sudents from poor communities in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the United States to be doctors. Students get free tuition, accommodation and a small stipend. The only requirement is that graduates return to practice medicine in under-served communities in their own countries. The school has so far graduated more than 20,000 students, including close to 150 Americans. More are currently enrolled.

The ELAM students, along with three Cuban health professionals – a pediatric oncologist, a registered nurse and professor of medicine, two of whom served with volunteer medical brigades fighting Ebola in West Africa – will participate in special events during the week of Sept. 11, 2017, at the University of Maryland, Howard University, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Georgetown University. During these unique cross-border conversations, the Cuban health care specialists will not only discuss the impact of the blockade with their American counterparts but they will also discuss the lessons Americans can learn from Cuba’s successful long-running universal health care program and its world class health outcomes.

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It costs money to stage an important event like this one – including covering the travel costs of the Cuban and ELAM graduate participants, the International Committee is a volunteer organization. Please DONATE to support this year’s Days of Action.