http://www.granma. cu/ingles/ 2009/mayo/ lun25/22REFLEX1. html
Reflections of Fidel
Fidel Castro Ruz
May 24, 2009
Nothing can be improvised in Haiti
FIVE days ago I read a press report stating that Ban Ki-moon is to appoint Bill Clinton as his special envoy for Haiti. According to the report, Clinton accompanied the secretary general on a two-day official visit to Haiti last March in order to support the development program drawn up by the government of Port-au-Prince, which seeks to arouse the lethargic Haitian economy. The report stated that the former president had maintained a remarkable philanthropic commitment to the Caribbean nation through the Clinton Global Initiative. It likewise stated that the ex-president had said he was honored to accept the secretary general’s invitation to become the special envoy for Haiti.
Clinton reportedly stated that the people and the government of Haiti had the capacity to recover from the serious damage caused by the four tropical storms that devastated that country last year. The following day, the same news agency reported that Mrs. Clinton, U.S. secretary of state, had jubilantly declared that "Bill was an outstanding envoy." For his part, the UN secretary general confirmed that he had appointed Clinton as his new special envoy for Haiti. He said they both had been together in that country and that Clinton’s presence had helped to raise awareness within the international community of the problems facing that Caribbean nation.He added that, after a period of several years of relative calm shored up by the MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti), the UN fears that political instability will once again return to the country.
The new press report reiterates the story of the four hurricanes and storms that caused 900 fatalities, left 800,000 victims, and destroyed the scant civil infrastructure that existed in that country. The history of Haiti and its tragedy is far more complex.
Haiti was the second country in this hemisphere after the United States – which proclaimed its sovereignty in 1776 – to win its independence in 1804. In the former case, the white descendants of the settlers who founded the 13 British Colonies, who were fervent, austere and cultured religious believers and owned land and slaves, shook off the British colonial yoke and enjoyed their national independence. But this was not the case for the indigenous population, the African slaves or their descendants, who were denied every right, despite the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Philadelphia.
In Haiti, where more than 400,000 slaves worked for 30,000 white owners, for the first time in the history of humankind, the men and women submitted to that heinous system were capable of abolishing slavery, maintaining and defending an independent state, fighting against soldiers who had brought the European monarchies to their knees.
That era coincided with the boom of capitalism and the emergence of powerful colonial empires who dominated the lands and oceans of the planet for centuries.
The Haitians were not to blame for their current poverty; they were rather the victims of a system that was imposed on the world. They did not invent colonialism, capitalism, imperialism, unequal exchange, neoliberalism or any of the forms of exploitation and plundering that have prevailed on this planet for the last 200 years.
Haiti has an area of 27,750 square kilometers and, according to reliable estimates, in the year 2009 the population reached the total of 9 million inhabitants. The number of inhabitants per square kilometer of arable land has increased to 885, one of the highest in the world, without the existence of any industrial development or resources that would allow them to acquire a minimal amount of material goods indispensable for life.
Fifty three per cent of the population lives in the rural areas; firewood and charcoal are the only household fuels available to most Haitian families, which hinders reforestation. The absence of forests within which leaves, twigs and roots create a soft surface that retains water, facilitates the human and economic damage that heavy rains cause to neighborhoods, roads and crops. As is known, hurricanes cause significant additional damage which will be even greater if the climate continues changing at the same rapid rate. This is no secret to anyone.
Our cooperation with the people of Haiti began10 years ago, precisely when Hurricanes George and Mitch lashed the Caribbean and certain Central American countries.
René Preval was the president of Haiti at the time and Jean-Bertrand Aristide was head of government. The first contingent of 100 Cuban doctors was sent on December 4, 1998. The number of Cuban cooperative healthcare workers in Haiti later rose to over 600.
It was on that occasion that the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) was founded. There are currently more than 12,000 young Latin Americans studying there. Since that time, hundreds of scholarships have been awarded to young Haitians to study at the Faculty of Medicine in Santiago de Cuba, one of the most experienced in the country.
In Haiti, the number of elementary schools had grown and was increasing. Even the poorest families were eager for their children to study, as the only hope of surviving the poverty and working either within or outside of the country. The Cuban medical training program was well received. The young people selected to study in Cuba had a good basic education, possibly the legacy of France’s advances in that field. They had to spend one year on a pre-med course which also included learning the Spanish language. It has constituted a good reserve of quality physicians.
Some 533 Haitian youths have graduated from our medical schools as specialists in General Comprehensive Medicine; 52 of them are currently in Cuba, studying a second specialty that is now required. Another group of 527 are filling the places granted to the Republic of Haiti.
Some 413 Cuban health professionals are currently offering their services, free of charge, to the people of that sister nation. The Cuban doctors are present in all 10 departments of that country and in 127 of the 137 municipalities. More than 400 Haitian doctors who have been trained in Cuba, and the final-year students who are doing their practice in Haiti are also lending their services –side by side with our doctors – making a grand total of 800 young Haitians devoted to offering medical assistance in their homeland. That force will grow ever larger with the new Haitian graduates.
It was a tough challenge; the Cuban doctors had to cope with difficult problems. The infant mortality stood at more than 80 per 1,000 live births; life expectancy was under 60 years of age; the prevalence of AIDS among adults in the year 2007 was 120,000 citizens. Tens of thousands of children and adults of different ages still die every year from infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhea, dengue and malnutrition, just to mention some indicators. The HIV virus itself is now a disease that doctors can combat, thus guaranteeing the life of patients. But this can not be achieved in just one year; it is indispensable to have a culture of health, which the Haitian people are acquiring with greater interest. The progress observed shows that it is possible to improve health indicators in a significant way.
A total of 37,109 patients have undergone eye surgery in three ophthalmologic centers established in Haiti. Those complex cases that can not be operated on there are sent to Cuba, where they are treated completely free of charge.
Thanks to Venezuelan economic cooperation, 10 Comprehensive Diagnosis Centers are being built, equipped with state-of-the- art technology that has already been acquired.
Far more important than the resources that could be mobilized by the international community, are the human beings that make use of those resources.
Our modest support to the people of Haiti has been possible despite the fact that the hurricanes mentioned by Clinton battered us as well. That is a good example of what the world has been lacking: solidarity.
We could likewise mention Cuba’s contribution to literacy programs and other projects, despite our limited economic resources. But I do not want to expand on this; nor is there any desire to do so just to talk about our contribution. I focused on health because it is an unavoidable topic. We are not afraid of others doing what we are doing. The young Haitians who are being trained in Cuba are becoming the priests of health required more and more by that sister nation.
The most important thing is the creation of new forms of cooperation, so much needed in this egocentric world. The UN agencies can attest to the fact that Cuba is contributing what they describe as Comprehensive Healthcare Programs.
Nothing can be improvised in Haiti, and nothing will result from the philanthropic spirit of any institution.
The Latin American School of Medicine project was later joined by the new training program in Cuba for doctors coming from Venezuela, Bolivia, the Caribbean and other countries of the Third World, as long as their respective health programs urgently needed it. Today, there are more than 24,000 young people from the Third World studying Medicine in our homeland. By helping others we have also developed ourselves in that field and we have become a significant force. That, and not the brain drain, is what we practice! Could the rich and super-developed G-7 countries say the same? Others will follow our example! Let nobody doubt that!
(Taken from CubaDebate)
Translated by Granma International