Following is an edited statement issued by the World Federation of Trade Unions’ Secretariat in Athens, Greece, on Oct. 15.
The Ebola epidemic that has struck mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea of West Africa and threatens the entire world has killed thousands of people and caused panic to millions of others.
As high level officials of the World Health Organization confess, the epidemic has severely expanded over the last weeks and 70 percent of the people affected die because of the lack of proper health care facilities.
This epidemic brings in the forefront in the most tragic way the chronic and deep wounds in the African continent caused by colonialism, by the continuous plundering of the wealth-producing resources and by the high public debts that keep African states and their economies enslaved to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and monopoly cartels.
Crucial problems that in extraordinary conditions such as the one today can create an explosive atmosphere are: poverty, malnutrition, the lack of basic health care infrastructure and social welfare, the limited access to a system of public and free education capable of eradicating illiteracy and the effects of prejudices and superstitions, the slums that continue to exist being a disgrace for humanity and a danger to public health, the militarization and the state violence that are the answer of the panicked state mechanism.
The World Federation of Trade Unions expresses its indignation at the current situation in the existing health care facilities in the above-mentioned countries which result in medical personnel offering their services while risking their own lives without any safety measures (gloves, masks). As a result, deaths amongst medical personnel have risen to extreme levels.
The World Federation of Trade Unions and its members worldwide have in the past, with two International Action Days, denounced the role of the multinational pharmaceutical companies which profit from the people’s suffering.
State budget cuts in the funding of public institutions in the field of research, pharmaceutical production and health care in the USA and the European Union are aggravating the problems while working in favor of the privatization of those fields, the expansion of the control of the monopolies over the industry and against the satisfaction of the people’s needs.
It is very clear in the case of Ebola as well that as long as research, production and health care are ruled by the laws of monopoly competition and the profit system, the people will be suffering from diseases that should have long been extinct or adequately controlled.
Furthermore, in complete contrast to the imperialist policy of the USA and Britain, which in the midst of the crisis have seized the opportunity to send new troops to Africa, the World Federation of Trade Unions feels the need to congratulate the heroic decision of the Cuban government and the Cuban people to show in the most humanitarian way their solidarity with the people of Africa by sending to Liberia and Guinea a large group of doctors and medical personnel in order to assist in the efforts for the relief of the Ebola patients. More than 50,000 Cuban doctors and medical personnel working in 66 countries around the world and specifically 4,000 in 32 African countries, are offering high level health services as a form of practical solidarity.
We congratulate our affiliate, the CTC Cuba [the Cuban Workers’ Central Union] and its members in the health sector who heroically prove their international solidarity.
The World Federation of Trade Unions, representing 90 million workers in 126 countries, reaffirms its consistent position that preventive health care on a framework of a public, free and adequate health care system is the best solution in all health issues.
The WFTU struggles for:
- The creation of contemporary, adequate and fully equipped institutions of health care in all countries that will be part of a broad, public, free and centrally designed health care system to offer to all the population proper health care services at all stages of their lives. The sufficient number of medical personnel, the satisfaction of the labour rights and the proper conditions of hygiene and safety are important factors.
- The formation of public institutions of research, production and distribution of free or cheap pharmaceutical supplies, medicine and vaccination to all the people.
- The eradication of illiteracy by securing access for all people to a public and free education.
- For state policy that will solve the housing problems in many countries.
- The elimination of poverty and hunger. The African continent is rich in natural resources and agricultural capabilities. If those are put in the control and the service of the people, it would help greatly in the rapid improvement of the living standards of the ordinary people and to the drastic elimination of diseases and poverty.