In a world driven by selfish interests, in which capitalism considers health a commodity and not a right, it will be impossible to achieve goal 3 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being of all at all ages", and in particular, that of achieving universal health coverage for all people.
According to WHO estimates, 5.4 million children under five years old died in 2017, 2.5 million of these painful deaths occurred in the first 28 days of life; 4.3 million deaths were reported in 2016 due to diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and neglected tropical diseases; non-communicable diseases killed 41 million people in 2017.
However, what is most regrettable is that the majority of these deaths could have been prevented with access to health services and medicines.
All we need is political will, concerted action by the international community and, above all, a change in the unjust international order to reverse the global health situation.
Health in Cuba is a right for all persons, ratified in article 72 of the Constitution, and it is the responsibility of the State to ensure the access to free and quality health care services, as well as to protection and recovery.
All this has allowed Cuba to achieve a life expectancy of 78.45 years and an infant mortality rate of 4.0 per 1,000 live births by the end of 2018. The immunization level reached 98%, with 14 infectious diseases eradicated, 9 not constituting a health problem and 29 controlled communicable diseases. The indicators that certified Cuba as the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis were maintained.
In order to obtain these results, we have not only faced the challenges imposed on us by our status of a small island developing state, but also the impact of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States for almost 60 years, which has been tightened nowadays.
The blockade is the main obstacle to our development and the only current limiting factor to achieve even more effective results in the health field. It is a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of all our people. Health is one of the sectors on which this genocidal U.S. policy has the greatest impact.
We denounce the government of the United States that now attacks the bilateral and intergovernmental programs of health cooperation; all of them legitimately established among the Cuban government and the governments of dozens of countries, which have been consistent with the United Nations guidelines referred to South-South cooperation and have responded to the health requirements that those governments have sovereignly defined.
Since last year, the government of the United States has waged an intensive and defamatory campaign against the medical cooperation provided by Cuba, which adds to the threats of sanctions against Cuban leaders and pressure exerted on recipient States to make them dispense with said services.
Cuba is being accused of allegedly engaging in "modern slavery" and "trafficking in persons" working in the Cuban health system, for the purpose of exploitation or for being used to allegedly interfere in the internal affairs of the States they have been assigned to.
The U.S. government is also attempting to reinstate the so-called "Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program," which was in force until 12 January 2017, in support to an active operation to incite defection, including the funding of air tickets and legal services, as well as the issuance of U.S. visas and travelling documents for Cuban cooperation workers in third countries with the purpose of sabotaging the bilateral agreements signed with those nations, depriving them of their services and depriving us of highly qualified human resources.
It is immoral and unacceptable to question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of the more than 400,000 Cuban health cooperators who, in 56 years, have accomplished missions in 164 nations.
Their contribution in the fight against Ebola virus in Africa, blindness in Latin America and the Caribbean, cholera in Haiti and the participation of 26 brigades of the "Henry Reeve" International Brigade of Medical Professionals Specialized in the Management of Disasters and Extensive Epidemics in Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Venezuela, among others, stand out.
With a similar selflessness and dedication, 35,613 health professionals from 138 countries have been trained free of charge in Cuba.
The U.S. crusade against international medical cooperation is an infamous and criminal act against peoples in need of medical assistance, which will not overshadow the solidarity and human contribution of the 29,000 Cuban health professionals, who, with enormous sacrifice and high level of understanding on the part of their families, are currently providing services to 65 nations.
The U.S. Government approach to this matter is despicable. Cuba's response is firm: we will continue saving lives and providing healthcare services and well-being throughout the world, to the extent of our possibilities, wherever we might be required to do so.
Thank you very much.