Infant mortality in Cuba dropped to 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births last year, according to Granma Internacional. It is down from 7.9 the year before and places Cuba among the 25 nations in the world with the lowest infant mortality rates.
Down also was the mortality of children under the age of five at 9.3 per 1,000 live births; maternal mortality at 2.2 per 10,000; and low birth weight at only 6.9 percent of all births.
This is an amazing accomplishment considering that in 1960, the second year of the Revolution, the infant mortality rate was 62 infants per 1,000 live births. It is sobering, though, to remember that today the worldwide rate is still as high as 60 infants per 1,000 live births.
Cuba is a poor country, one of the developing nations whose people constitute the majority of the world's population. The extremely low death rates cited in Granma indicate the degree of attention given health care - which is both free and available to everyone - in that country.
"A principal role in this public health success is played by the family doctors and nurses who, together with obstetricians, neonatologists and nursing and technical personnel offer special attention to the mother and child."
Of the 152,547 births, 99.8 percent took place in the maternity hospitals or centers to which women are directed when their babies are due or when there is any problem that cannot be handled either in the family or workplace health center or in her home, the two places where a woman generally sees her doctor.
Severe diarrhetic illness, a primary cause of death for children in developing countries, no longer threatens Cuban children and has not for decades. Polio, tetanus, diphtheria and measles are entirely absent from the island. The transmission of German measles and whooping cough has been entirely halted in children under the age of 2.
Granma also notes that for the entire population 1997 had the lowest rates on record of transmissible diseases such as congenital syphilis, typhoid fever, adult tetanus, meningoccal diseases, viral meningitis and bacterial infection.
These facts would be surprising anywhere. That they occur in a country under constant harassment and a 37-year-old blockade imposed by the world's most powerful nation testifies to its people's strength and their determination to be masters of their own destiny.
Pope John Paul II visited Cuba last month; among the themes dwelt on in his sermons and homilies was the inhumanity of embargoes and blockades. They strike the most vulnerable first and most profoundly. Contact President Clinton and your legislators in Washington now and urge them to end the U.S. blockade against Cuba.