This year we mark World Health Day – April 7 – in the midst of a very serious global pandemic – the coronavirus.
This pandemic reminds us that health is a human right; and it’s time for health for every Zambian, for every human being.
We believe and know that universal health coverage is possible. And it’s our collective duty to struggle for it and make it happen in our homeland and the whole world!
Universal health coverage means that every Zambian has access to the quality health services she or he needs, when and where she or he needs them, without financial hardship.
The great majority of Zambians, especially those in rural areas, do not receive the health services they need.
And many Zambians are pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket spending on health.
Health is a human right; every Zambian should have the information and services they need to take care of their own health and the health of their families.
Quality, accessible primary health care is the foundation for universal health coverage.
Unsafe and low-quality health care ruins lives.
Primary health care should be the first level of contact with the health system, where individuals, families and communities receive most of their health care—from promotion and prevention to treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care – as close as possible to where they live and work.
At its heart, primary health care is about caring for people and helping them improve their health or maintain their well-being, rather than just treating a single disease or condition.
Primary health care covers the majority of your health needs throughout your life including services such as screening for health problems, vaccines, information on how to prevent disease, family planning, treatment for long- and short-term conditions, coordination with other levels of care, and rehabilitation.
Primary health care is a cost-effective and equitable way of delivering health services.
To make health for all a reality, we need skilled health workers providing quality, people-centred care; and policy-makers committed to investing in primary health care. Socialist parties and governments take a lead in the world in struggling for and providing health care for all.
Universal health care is possible, only with public healthcare delivery.
When it comes to health care profit should not be placed over people.
Profit should never come before people’s needs. We must stop this; we must change this.
We need universal access to quality public health care, free at the point of service.
And quality health care delivery requires decent work for health workers.
And on this day remember Commandante Fidel Castro’s great contribution to the global public health. Fidel not only led exemplary initiatives to ensure healthcare for all within Cuba, but also ensured that Cuban doctors were the first to reach out to people in other countries, especially developing countries, during natural disasters. Under Fidel, Cuban medical scientists also developed cutting-edge measures to combat diseases, ranging from meningitis to cancers.
Across the political spectrum, few would dispute the outstanding successes the Cuban healthcare system has achieved under the Revolution.
Fidel consistently promoted advances in primary healthcare, public health, medical education and research. These include establishing a widespread network of public hospitals and community-based clinics, emphasising on preventive and promotive health measures, and building a unique system for training of doctors and healthcare professionals.
Fidel supported the creation of the family doctor-and-nurse programme since the 1980s, ensuring that every neighbourhood of Cuba had access to primary healthcare. Small wonder, the country’s infant mortality rate stands at 4.2 per 1,000—the lowest in Latin America and even lower than the rate in the United States – even though its per capita healthcare spending is just a fraction of that of the United States.
Taking healthcare beyond its borders, Cuba has been sending its doctors and health workers to help deprived populations in developing countries during emergency since 1963. Today, over 30,000 Cuban healthcare workers, dubbed “army of white coats”, work in more than 60 countries. They were the first to reach the remote areas of northern Pakistan that suffered extensive damage during the 2005 earthquake. Over 2,500 Cuban medics saved lives by conducting operations on injured people even in extremely difficult conditions. During the Ebola epidemic in western Africa, the Cuban medical contingent was the largest foreign medical team from any country, providing care to people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Now they are in Italy risking their lives in the fight against the coronavirus.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, stated about Cuban doctors: “They are always the first to arrive and the last to leave. They remain in place after the crises. Cuba can be proud of its healthcare system, a model for many countries.”
Cuba under Fidel’s leadership founded the Latin American School of Medicine in 1999, which has trained around 30,000 physicians from over a hundred countries. Indeed, if there is one developing country in the world today which stands out for its contributions to global health, it is Cuba. While Fidel is no more among us, we are confident that the sound foundations he has laid for public health will last for long and remain an inspiration to those of us committed to people’s health.
Issued by Fred M’membe on behalf of the Politburo of Socialist Party