Increase in Deaths by Poisoning and Drowning in Cuba: Less Cases of Suicide

By Daniel Benitez  (Cafe Fuerte)

Over a quarter of Cuba’s doctors are abroad on collaborative missions. Photo: Raquel Perez/CARTAS DE CUBA.

HAVANA TIMES — The number of people in Cuba who lost their lives by poisoning increased to 92 in 2016, 10 more than in the previous year, according to official statistics.

The 2016 Annual Health Statistics Report, which was recently published, classifies these deaths as accidental, without offering any further details.

Out of this total, 83 were men and 58 of them were assumed to be aged between 20-59 years old. These statistics also highlight a drastic increase in the number of people who died by accidental drowning or submersion, which stood at 200 in 2015 and increased to 261 by the end of last December.

Out of those who drowned, 232 were men, 54 of whom were younger than 19 years old. Out of the 29 women who died in this way, 15 were under 20 years old.

More deaths on Cuban highways, less suicides

The chapter on motor vehicle accidents reported an increase in deaths when compared to the previous 12 month period; there were a total of 916 in 2016, which surpassed the number of deaths in 2015 by three.

With regard to suicides, which are presented as “deaths from intentional self-inflicted injuries”, the document reported a decrease by 82 cases. From 1,511 people committing suicide in 2015, the number fell to 1,429 in 2016.

Suicide figures among the top 12 main causes of death in Cuba, with a percentage rate of 8.3 (per 100,000 inhabitants).

The detailed summary was published on the Infomed website, which belongs to the Public Health Ministry.

Clarification about medical missions

The document also offers official data about international medical efforts that Cuba provides abroad.

Collaborative missions take place in 62 countries, mostly on the African continent.

Altogether, Cuban professionals in the health sector, which besides physicians also includes nurses and technicians, total 493,368. Of these 90,161 are doctors and 16,852 are dentistsThe Ministry’s annual report doesn’t state the exact number of doctors who offer their services abroad, but the government body has fixed the number of health personnel on missions contracted abroad to be over 50,000, out of which 25,000 are doctors.

Therefore, this means that a quarter of all Cuban doctors (27.7%) are on missions abroad, which makes understandable the fact that primary attention and specialist care are worsening in the country.  The lesser attention is a main critique of the people in a country which averaged 11 visits to the doctor or dentist last year.

Misleading statistics

The publication doesn’t reveal the total revenue the government receives for medical services provided abroad, although the report was used by some media platforms and websites to document the figure at 11.543 billion USD received for its medical missions.  Only a small portion of these funds go to the doctor and other health workers.

In reality, the figure 11.543 billion USD had already appeared in an article written by former Economy and Planning Minister Jorge Luis Rodriguez on February 17, published on the official website Cubadebate. In this article, and forming part of a series of articles about the Cuban economy, Rodriguez mentioned the sum of revenue generated by exporting skilled workers between 2011 and 2015.

This money doesn’t exclusively come from the contracting of health professionals, like some commentators of Cuban matters assumed on the internet, but is the total sum for contracts which also include sports and agriculture experts, as well as experts in other scientific fields, which are key sources of capital for the country.

One thought on “Increase in Deaths by Poisoning and Drowning in Cuba: Less Cases of Suicide

  • If Cuba has some “agriculture experts” capable of giving advice in other countries, its high time for them to stay at home in Cuba and advise the Castro family regime upon how to retain land in a productive condition rather than reverting to bush.
    The highest level of such “experts” who I have met in my years in Cuba, was a fellow at an agricultural cooperative in the Province of Artemisa near San Antonio de los Banos. He was talented and frustrated. His academic qualifications were in nuclear science having graduated from the University of Moscow.
    The only other “expert” to be seen at frequent intervals on Cuban TV visiting aging sugar producing plants wearing a hard hat, is Second Vice-President General Machado Ventura. I expect that Gordon Robinson (also writing as CubaKing) will remind us that Ventura in his spare time is busy coaching two of Gordon’s children who have ambitions to be the future President and Minister of Finance in Cuba respectively.

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