More than half a million Cubans have no access to water. Frequent hand-washing with soap and water is the first advice we get for crucial protection against the coronavirus. However, Cubans do not have the basics for their survival.
About 21.3% of Havana does not have continuous access to water, 468,721 people out of a total of 2.2 million inhabitants. 469,000 in all of western Cuba are without water. Figures from the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH) state that another 23,000 people in the central zone of the country do not have this vital liquid, nor do 21,000 in the east, making a total of 513,000 in the country.
Antonio Rodríguez, president of INRH, acknowledged the shortage of supplies on the island on Cuban television. In the program, Mesa Redonda, he explained that 111 sources of water supply are affected, 89 partially, and another 22 totally. He also explained that only one of the five catchment areas that supply water to Havana is functioning.
In other words, despite the propaganda of the Communist Party that has sold the world that Cuba is a medical power, the island does not even offer sanitary conditions for its inhabitants, starting with the first procedure to avoid the spread of the coronavirus: hand washing. Not only is there a lack of water, but soap (the second most important element to protect oneself from the COVID-19) is considered a luxury item, and therefore, scarce.
This was revealed when a group of Chileans was unable to leave the country because the regime closed the island’s airports due to the pandemic. Chilean actress and activist Carolina Cox caused an international stir after she demonstrated for months against the government of Sebastián Piñera, who she later begged for help to leave Cuba, where she was restricted from using credit cards, and there was not even any soap or medicine.
Like her, dozens of foreigners who defended the socialist model from the comfort of countries with free economies, where, with an iPhone and mobile data, they demanded the destruction of the free market system, begged to leave the socialist “utopia.”
According to testimonies compiled by Radio Martí, like that of activist María López, there is water “every three, five, or eight days. So they have no means of protecting themselves from the coronavirus or any other disease.”
After Havana, the most-affected region is the east. In Santiago de Cuba, the situation was described as “critical,” since water reaches homes every “month to two months.”
A group of Cuban women dramatically exposed the situation on the last weekend of April. They protested with empty buckets, furious and indignant because they cannot wash their sick children.
They said they had complained to government agencies, including the People’s Power, and none had sent them water. People are covering their mouths with homemade masks and throwing their unwashed clothes on the floor. It is important to wash clothes that have been exposed to the environment in this pandemic. However, it is not possible to comply with basic hygiene standards in Cuba.
Product shortages mirror the economic crisis
Basic hygiene products have been missing for months. Since December, there have been no sanitary towels available in many parts of the island. This shows that Cuba is in an economic crisis.
Cuba imports 82% of what it consumes. Because the regime controls production in Cuba, its citizens are dependent on state rations. Since the funding that Cuba receives from Venezuela diminished after socialism caused the collapse of the South American country’s economy, Cuba has lost its ability to pay to China. The Asian giant, on the other hand, is no longer exporting to Cuba because of the economic blow it has received from being the place of origin of the COVID-19.
The liquidity crisis on the island is due to two major shocks. One, the Trump administration ordered the closure of U.S. tourism on the island in retaliation for the complicity of the Cuban dictatorship with the socialist regime of Nicolás Maduro.
Meanwhile, the Cuban Communist Party lost an average of 33 million dollars per month —which it received in exchange for sending 11,000 doctors to Brazil— after President Jair Bolsonaro, who called the working conditions of the dictatorship “slavery,” expropriating 75% to 90% of the doctors’ salaries and not allowing them to travel with their families.
Instead of improving these working conditions, the regime chose to bring the doctors back and put their higher-income at risk. In 2016 alone, Cuban doctors working abroad produced five times more than the tourism industry. Doctors generated 11,543 billion USD annually, while tourism produced 2.8 billion USD.
In theory, Cuba is supposed to be an example of healthcare. In practice, it can neither supply basic hygiene items for its women nor provide decent working conditions for health workers.
To this day, doctors around the world take a Hippocratic oath in honor of Hippocrates, the famous physician from ancient Greece who swore in honor of Aesculapius and his sons Hygia and Panacea. Hygia was the goddess of cleanliness and healing. From her name comes hygiene. Her Roman equivalent is Salus, from her name comes health or “salud.”
Since the time before Christ, health and hygiene have been synonymous. Therefore, hand washing literally saves lives. But in the case of Cuba, something so simple is not possible for at least half a million people, which makes it clear, once again, that its health system does not provide the bare minimum.