Year 2000 No. 137, August 18, 2000

A Genuine Case of Humanitarian Intervention!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

A Genuine Case of Humanitarian Intervention!

Breathing Castro's Dreams: 4,000 New Doctors, Dentists and Nurses Graduate in Cuba

Condemn Violation of Children's Rights and Demand the Lifting of Sanctions on Iraq

News In Briefs
Scottish Council Workers Vote to Strike
Urgent Action Called for over Cape plc

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A Genuine Case of Humanitarian Intervention!

A revolution in the concept of medicine was how Cuban President Fidel Castro described the combination of medical co-operation in 13 developing nations and the training of health professionals from 20 countries. He was speaking recently at the Latin American School of Medical Science, located in Havana, during a meeting with 157 health workers and doctors working in The Gambia.

Since November 1998, in the wake of Hurricanes George and Mitch, Cuba has been developing an integral health programme which will benefit countries like Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Ecuador, Paraguay, Haiti, The Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and Niger.

Before the arrival of the Cuban health workers and professionals in The Gambia in June last year, there were only 18 doctors there, of whom seven or eight were nationals. The infant mortality rate had stood at 121 per 1,000 live births. Current estimates indicate that this figure has dropped to 90, according to Dr Ernesto Naranjo, deputy co-ordinator of the mission in that country.

The Cuban doctors explained to President Castro that they are seeking to expand their services so that they can give health cover to all pregnant women in The Gambia. Fidel remarked, "One doctor in those countries can do many things," pointing out that doctors can educate and transmit the appropriate knowledge. Speaking of the Cuban initiative, he said, "We can do it because we have the human capital." Currently 3,347 medical students from 20 countries (19 in Latin America plus Equatorial Guinea) are studying at the Latin American School of Medical Sciences in Havana.

Another Cuban medical brigade of 64 volunteers left for Niger on August 8 to join 30 internationalists who have been lending their services since 1999 to that country's people. Dr Carlos Milanés, head of the new medical mission, announced that a further group of Cuban doctors is scheduled to depart for Africa shortly.

In Central America, Cuban co-operation is to be expanded with the forthcoming departure of 50 doctors to Honduras, increasing the total medical personnel from Cuba in Honduras to 1770. Jacinto Muñoz, head of the Cuban Interests Section in Honduras, stated that Cuba is in an excellent position to continue strengthening links with that Central American country in all spheres, including medicine, science, sports and technology. Some 500 young Hondurans have been studying medicine in Havana since 1999 as part of the co-operation programme.

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Breathing Castro's Dreams: 4,000 New Doctors, Dentists and Nurses Graduate in Cuba

President Fidel Castro affirmed on August 13 that, in the sphere of health, Cuba has become a moral giant from which is emanating a new, humane concept of what medical services should be.

He shared with the graduates at the Jose Martí Anti-Imperialist Tribunal, their professors and their families the profound emotion he felt in a recent meeting with highly-qualified medical professionals from modest origins and all ethnic backgrounds about to return to The Gambia after a brief vacation.

The graduation ceremony took place on Fidel Castro's birthday. President Castro himself presented diplomas to the outstanding graduates of the year 2000, who are leaving for the mountainous areas of Guantánamo, and to those of 1999, who are now bound for Haiti having concluded a year of work in that same location, following their decision "only to place our talents at the service of the homeland".

Among various professional and amateur musical groups interpreting songs on this occasion, there was once dedicated to Castro on his 74th birthday. Entitled "Fidel, August 13", its verses spoke of the "perceived merit of your life", "animating boldness", "course of faith", "your way will be illuminated", "faithful to the legend", "blessed with honour", and of an exceptional man whose dreams - like the new medical graduates - "we go on breathing".

Condemn Violation of Children's Rights and Demand the Lifting of Sanctions on Iraq

WDIE has received the following statement produced by Children First, the International Campaign for Children's Rights, dated July 26, 2000. The website for Children First is

"Every child has the right to have a happy, secure and creative life."

More than 750,000 children have died in Iraq as a result of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq since August 1990. According to the official news agency "INA" and the World Health Organisation, in the month of March 2000 alone, 6,438 children died mainly from diarrhoea, breathing problems and malnutrition.

The facts are:

· Children in Iraq have no access to the necessaries of a normal life. Every month over 4,000 children die in Iraq as a direct consequence of the conditions created by the sanctions;

· Children in Iraq have lost access to health and all the existing facilities for protection against injury and disease. Every day millions, mostly children, face the hardships of the miserable life with little or no medicine, clean water and nutrition. Almost all leukaemia patients die in Iraq because hospitals are unable to provide adequate treatment, while these patients can be treated routinely elsewhere;

· Instead of leisure and recreation, children have been suffering from mental disorders. The rate of children with mental disorders has increased by 124 per cent from 1990 to 1998. The number of children below 10 suffering from mental distress rose from 42% in 1996 to 56% in 1997;

· Instead of having a healthy and safe environment, children have been ending up in the streets. The number of street children increased by 77 percent. Some have turned to crime to survive.

The statistics given by UNICEF and the United Nations hardly pictures the reality.

Children First calls on individuals and groups to resolutely condemn the violation of children and human rights and demand the lifting of the sanctions on Iraq right now and without any preconditions.

News In Brief

Scottish Council Workers Vote to Strike

Over 80,000 local government workers across Scotland's 32 local authorities are to take strike action.

The final result of the ballot was announced on August 15, with 56 per cent (15,917) voting for action, and 44 per cent (12,330) voting against. The public-sector union UNISON had called the ballot after a derisory 2.5% pay increase was offered to the workers by COSLA, the Council employers' association.

UNISON is recommending a one-day strike as a first step, to be followed by a two- and a three-day strike. The date targeted for the first day will be August 19. UNISON will also be seeking a co-ordinated approach to the action from the 40,000 members of the TGWU and GMB.

Joe Di Paola, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Local Government, said: "This result is an indication of the poor morale and frustration felt by the workforce. Central Government has not funded staff pay increases for seven years and the Local Government staff are fed up carrying the burden of the cuts that local services have suffered. We will be informing the employers of this result and of our intention to take industrial action, and we hope, even at this late date, we could resolve the issue."

The action would affect refuse collection, food safety protection, schools, planning, leisure facilities and many others. The union stressed that they will ensure that protection would be in place for vulnerable people who depend on local services.

For workers to take this action in defence of attacks on their pay and conditions and against the cuts in public services is very just. Like other such actions, it is bound to give rise to the question as to how society should be organised to find a way out of the crisis.

Urgent Action Called for over Cape plc

On July 20, the House of Lords ruled in favour of 3,000 South African workers who were demanding that their case for compensation for exposure to asbestos be heard in the English courts. Cape plc, the offending company, cannot appeal against this ruling.

This has been described as a landmark judgment that strengthens the case against multinational companies operating double standards on the health and safety of their workers, so that they may be held accountable by the courts in Britain for their operations overseas.

A call is now being made to step up the pressure for Cape plc to provide swift and generous compensation for the workers, whose exposure to asbestos and its disastrous effects goes back a number of decades. Thousands of South African workers are now suffering from fatal lung diseases.

The effects of asbestos have been known about and well-researched now for close on half a century. This case, along with all the other tragic cases of workers and other people exposed to asbestos, underlines that under the present social system nationally and internationally, human lives are incidental to the making of profit, and that this criminal system must be transformed by the people's struggles.

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