21 November 2008

Why You Will Not Be Told Of This Miracle

By José Manzaneda

“Operación Milagro” (Operation Miracle) is the largest medical solidarity programme in history. Through this, people of modest means in Third World countries have been operated upon for free for vision impairments such as cataract, glaucoma and squint. Between 2004 and October 2008, 1,314,000 people from 33 countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia were operated upon and for 2014 the objective is to arrive at a figure of six million.

Reasons for the news blackout: Nevertheless, almost none of the large communication media, press, radio or television, has reported any of this gigantic solidarity initiative. Why? The explanation is simple: Operation Miracle is not financed by any First World country, is not supported by World Bank funds and neither does it count on the sponsorship of any business or private foundation.

It has been taken forward by two governments of the South who contribute for the people who benefit, without any charge, their public health infrastructure, thousands of doctors, the necessary medicine and even transport them by air to the hospitals of the two countries. The names of the two countries who organise and finance Operation Miracle explains, at once, why the media giants have decided on silence: Cuba and Venezuela.

Marketing solidarity: The paradox is that, while the largest medical solidarity project ever known has been disappeared from the news agenda, the media reserves more space each day for humanitarian projects of minimum impact financed by ophthalmology clinics or distributors of optical products.

These initiatives, which benefit at most a few hundred people in the nations of the South, are integrated within the so-called “corporate social responsibility” of these businesses and developed by their marketing departments. Many of these companies, it is clear, are prominent advertising clients of the communication media.

Oxfam report shut out: A study by the international organisation Oxfam reported that pharmaceutical company patents had impeded access to affordable medicines for the treatment of sight problems, this being the cause for the blindness for more than 30,000 people the world over. This report, which advocated generic medicines and therefore acted against the interests of the pharmaceutical companies, potential advertising clients for the media, did not have the impact in keeping with its importance

A few desertions: Some of the media, nevertheless, have certainly reported on Operation Miracle. But not to narrate the experience of some of the thousands of people, marginalised and forgotten for years, who have regained their vision thanks to the solidarity of Cuba and Venezuela. The only thing to have been picked up as news item is that some Cuban doctors have decided to boost their salaries working in private clinics in Latin America or the USA. It has to be remembered that there is a system of entrapping Cuban doctors directed by organisations in Miami and from U.S. embassies and consulates. A system which has worked out to be a complete failure if we look at the trifling number of entrapped doctors.

Cuba has close to 42,000 aid workers in 110 countries, of which 75% are health personnel. The web page ‘Barrio afuera’, created in Miami for entrapping Cuban medical aid workers with money, speaks of scarcely a “hundred Cuban professionals (who) have arrived in the United States from third countries”. Despite this, large circulation newspapers dedicate features to the very few cases of doctors who have deserted.

Protests by medical elites: The media also turn into news item the protests of medical associations and professional bodies in countries benefiting from Operation Miracle. This professional and business elite pressure their governments against these solidarity programmes, since the free Cuban ophthalmology service endangers their economic interests.

A subversive project: Operation Miracle is a huge challenge for the Latin American elites and for the large international communication media. It demonstrates that the ideology of solidarity can triumph over the ideology of individualism and of money. And solidarity is incompatible with the business interests or huge fortunes. It is a profoundly subversive project.

For this, the large companies which control information flow in the world have decided to censure one of the most important and encouraging news at the start of the twenty-first century: Operation Miracle.

Total data of patients operated upon from 2004 till 28 October 2008:

Venezuela: 566,704
Cuba: 171,183
Rest of the Caribbean (15 countries): 54,801
Rest of Latin America (14 countries): 511, 358
Mali: 6,714
Angola: 2,453

Total (33 countries): 1,313,213

Source: CubaDebate

Related Article: Operation Miracle restores a million eyesight

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