On January 3, the Cuban ministry of health released new statistics that show that the country’s infant mortality rate has hit a record low, which places it far ahead of the United States in this important health indicator.

The infant mortality rate expresses the number of babies per thousand live births who die before reaching their first birthday.

The Cuban rate for 2013 is 4.2 per thousand live births. This is down from 4.6 in 2012. The rate does not vary hugely for Cuba’s 16 provinces, though some of them – Pinar del Rio, Havana Province, Villa Clara, Sancti Spiritis, Ciego de Avila, Las Tunas, Holguin, Granma, Isla de Juventud – have lower rates than average. A number of towns had no infant deaths in 2013, according to the Cuban Ministry of Health.

Infant mortality rates have been dropping in most of the world since the Second World War, due to better sanitation, nutrition and health care standards (especially maternal and child health, and preventive health care), but also due to factors like urbanization. However, in Cuba they have dropped farther and faster than in other poorer countries.

Cuba does not have the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. That distinction belongs to countries which are both wealthy and have highly developed infrastructures and social welfare systems, such as Japan, Finland and Luxembourg, all of whom registered 2 infant deaths per 1000 live births. But Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in the Americas, and is far ahead of countries with similar per capita Gross Domestic Product levels.

Cuba’s per capita Gross Domestic Product calculated by the Purchasing Power Parity method is about $10,200 per year; that of the United States is about $51,000 per year, nearly five times as much.

The latest infant mortality rate for the U.S. is  listed as 5.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. If anybody has an excuse for the United States being in worse shape than Cuba on this wrenchingly important statistic, that represents so much horrific suffering for families, we have not heard it.

Besides taking care of its own babies and families better than our own country does, Cuba provides help to dozens of other poor countries by lending them doctors, nurses and other specialists, and by providing free training to their medical students. Socialism, it would appear, works.


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.