Cuba calls for universal health coverage at WHO meeting
In this Aug 13, 2012 file photo, a sick man is taken by ambulance to the public hospital Calixto Garcia in Havana, Cuba. | Franklin Reyes / AP

“Cuba supports the strengthening of systems geared toward achieving universal health coverage, recognizing that health is a fundamental human right and at the center of public policies for sustainable development,” stated Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, Cuban minister of Public Health, during the World Health Organization’s 70th World Assembly plenary session, taking place at the body’s headquarters in Geneva through May 31.

Morales Ojeda reported that by the end of 2016, life expectancy at birth in Cuba was 78.45 years, while the country also has an immunization program which protects against 13 diseases, and is comprised of 11 vaccines; eight of which are produced on the island, providing for over 98 percent coverage.

He also noted that Cuba continues to maintain key indicators which, in 2015, saw the island become the first country in the world to officially eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

“The foundations for the National Health System in Cuba were drawn up in 1959, the driving force behind which was the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz,” he stated.

The Cuban official also commented on the damage caused by the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba’s healthcare services, which in 2016 amounted to more than $87 million dollars.

Morales Ojeda once again condemned policies, such as the “brain drain,” which encourage Cuban professionals – above all, those linked to the healthcare sector – to migrate. “Human capital is our most valuable resource. We have 493,000 healthcare sector workers and over 50,000 collaborators offering services in 63 countries,” he added.

Among the challenges currently facing Cuba, he noted the country’s rapidly aging population, non-communicable chronic diseases, low birth rates, and the negative effects of climate change.

“The UN 2030 Sustainable Development agenda provides the opportunity to develop better health systems and improve the population’s wellbeing in an unequal world,” stated Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, noting that political will and collaboration are vital to such efforts.

This article originally appeared in the Cuban newspaper, Granma.



Official voice of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee. Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, fundado el 3 de octubre de 1965.