28 January 2014
Secretary-General
SG/SM/15619

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Hails Cuba for Training Medical ‘Miracle Workers’,

 

Being on Frontlines of Global Health

 


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks as prepared for delivery to officials at the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina( ELAM) in Havana today:


Thank you for welcoming me to this extraordinary school.  There are many things I could say here at ELAM, but the most important is simply muchas gracias.  Thank you for your outstanding contributions.  Thank you for leading the way on South-South cooperation.  Thank you for being on the frontlines of global health.


ELAM does more than train doctors.  You produce miracle workers.  I have seen it for myself.  As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I travel to many difficult places; desperate places hit hard by earthquakes, hurricanes or other natural disasters; remote places of deep deprivation; forgotten places far off many people’s radar of concerns.


And so many times in these different communities I have seen the same thing.  Doctors from Cuba — or doctors trained in Cuba — helping and healing.  Many health officials and ministers I have met in developing countries were trained in Cuba, some many decades ago.  This shows your country’s long history of cooperation.


Your doctors are with communities through thick and thin:  before disasters strike, throughout crises and long after storms have passed.   They are often the first to arrive and the last to leave.  For those students who cannot come to Cuba, you are also helping to establish medical schools from Bolivia to Eritrea to Timor-Leste.  ELAM has trained tens of thousands of students, but Cuba can teach the entire world about health care.


I want to join so many others in saluting Cuba’s health-care system, rooted in primary health care, which has yielded outstanding results — lower infant mortality, higher life expectancies, universal coverage.  This is a model for many countries around the world.


In countries like Haiti, the Cuban Medical Brigade have been lifesavers.  As you know Haiti is facing many challenges, including cholera.  Cuban doctors have been instrumental in bringing down the number of cholera cases in the country.


In the twenty-first century, cholera should not be a death sentence.  It is preventable and treatable — and the doctors trained here are leading the way.  And through initiatives such as Operación Milagro, Cuban-trained doctors have saved or improved eyesight for millions of people in dozens of countries.  You have helped them to see, but you have also given the world vision; a vision of generosity, solidarity and global citizenship.


I am very proud to see it for myself.  And I thank you for sharing it with the world.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record