Time to Swap Nuclear Weapons for Hospitals

 

April 22, 2020

Published by the Nicaragua Network, a project of Alliance for Global Justice!

NicaNotes is a blog for Nicaragua activists and those interested in Nicaragua, published by the Nicaragua Network, a project of the Alliance for Global Justice. It provides news and analysis from the context of Nicaragua Network’s long history of struggle in solidarity with the Sandinista Revolution.

 

NicaNotes: “It is time to swap nuclear weapons for hospitals”

President Daniel Ortega addresses Nicaragua’s people (and a world in crisis)

Good afternoon, Nicaraguan sisters and brothers, Nicaraguan families. First, our Solidarity and our Condolences to all the families who are suffering from the hardships of this pandemic, whose loved ones have died; some who are in serious condition in Intensive care; others in quarantine. All are suffering and in great pain. This is a time that calls for solidarity and unity among the peoples of the World.

And when we call for solidarity and unity as the peoples of the World, it means that we are being called to Peace. That is the first principle: Peace; to put an end to all types of war, to all types of aggression, against any people, and to cultivate Peace, to strengthen Peace. Because only a world at Peace will allow us, particularly the more developed countries, to create the conditions so that on this planet we do not face such dramatic situations as those in developed countries where there is a lack of beds and medical instruments, simply because the health services do not reach the people, do not reach the poor, do not reach the workers. Public services have been totally abandoned.

Of course, there are great, highly qualified hospitals, with a lot of technology and great scientists. But who can go to pay for services in a private hospital in a developed country or in a developing country? This is what is bleeding, that is, the world’s flesh has been ripped open by this pandemic.

And what use are atomic bombs? Are atomic weapons going to end the virus, the missiles that are being developed now in these arms races to conquer space and turn space into a battlefield, for killing, to kill? What are those weapons for? These weapons are not for life, they are not for health; they are not for the feeding of millions of human beings that perish year after year from hunger.

These weapons are for killing! And trillions are spent on them! And those who spend those trillions know perfectly well that these weapons cannot be used, because the day they are used, the entire population of the Planet will disappear. They know perfectly well! So why this madness of investing billions and trillions in weapons?

And how many epidemics, how many pandemics has humanity experienced? How many? How many millions of human beings have died in those pandemics, in those epidemics? In the midst of the World Wars, in the First World War, in the Second World War, there were epidemics and pandemics, and in the midst of the epidemics and pandemics there was no ceasefire. They kept killing each other, making war.

I am convinced that this pandemic, this virus that has multiplied throughout the planet,  no force is able to block it; there is no barrier that can block it, there is no wall that can block it. There is no way! There is no billionaire who can block it.

Of course, peoples in developing countries are the most exposed, the most vulnerable to this pandemic, and we already know how tragedies are repeated every year in developing countries, from the migration from Africa, seeking to reach Europe, during which thousands of adults, women and children die, drowning there in the sea, in that beautiful sea there, from Europe facing Africa, North Africa, and from North Africa they seek a way into Europe.

There are those migrants, there they are right now. What can these migrants do in the face of this pandemic, and likewise the migrants here who are also moving northwards, where we see that many of them are kept in cages there. Nicaraguans who have been deported home tell us how they are caged, how they are mistreated, and that there is no health care.

But what health care can they give them, if they don’t even have the capacity in that country, the world’s greatest superpower, the greatest military power in the history of humanity, the greatest economic power in the history of humanity, which does not have the capacity to meet the needs of its own citizens in its great cities. This is a tragedy that Europe is experiencing too.

This is what we can see and it is calling upon us, and it is a call that we can make from this small country, where we are facing the pandemic with our limited resources. With great patience, with great discipline, with great sacrifice on the part of health workers, with a high level of citizen engagement, with a high level of discipline from the workers, with great dedication from the Army, from the Police, protecting security and our territorial integrity; well, we have been fighting the fight.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, from the moment it was decreed on March 11th: Let’s see, from March 11th to April 15th, we had 1,237 reported deaths. Of all these, just one was from coronavirus. The other deceased, men, women and children, why did they die? From malignant tumors, diabetes, renal disease, acute myocardial infarction, hypertensive diseases; traffic accidents, cerebrovascular accidents, liver cirrhosis, neonatal asphyxia, congenital malformations, neonatal sepsis, bacterial pneumonia, septicemia. Suicides… yes, suicides! Drownings, yes, by drowning! Deaths from HIV.

See how much pain we’ve had in these families too! So much pain! We are talking about the period from March 11 to April 15, in Nicaragua, 1,237 people died from different causes.

And in the fight to take care of these families of people who arrive injured and need hospital care, in this fight to also bring health to thousands of Nicaraguans, how many medical consultations took place in this period? Thousands of doctor’s visits, thousands of operations, totally free of charge. Thousands of hemodialysis treatments!

Here the health system has not stopped providing free hemodialysis; that is the public health system. The private one is different, the private one charges, of course. The poor go to the public health system. The workers use it, and families looking for ways to improve their lives.

Hemodialysis! We’ve been incorporating even more hemodialysis systems; incorporating radiotherapy systems to attack cancer more effectively; inaugurating ICUs in the departmental hospitals and in municipal hospitals. Recently an ICU was inaugurated in Chontales, in Juigalpa.

In the midst of this pandemic, we have not stopped working, because here if we stop working, the country dies, and if the country dies, the people die, they get wiped out. If rural workers stop planting to harvest beans, if they stop sowing to harvest corn, if they stop planting to harvest coffee, if they stop sowing to ensure the supply of potatoes, carrots, radishes, onions… because, thank God, we are a country that even in the midst of the greatest difficulties, the greatest tragedies, the greatest boycotts, we are a country with working people and thanks be to God with land our people know how to cultivate very well and also know how to raise livestock.

Our people will not die of hunger! Big investments, big capital, can be affected by all these developments, because there is a supply chain in the field of international trade, in the field of international markets, which is unquestionably impacted and causes unemployment, which is felt here.

Well, the important thing here is that we have continued working, following guidelines very conscientiously and with great discipline; our people follow the rules the Health System dictates. And this is repeated everywhere, multiplied not only by transmitting these guidelines via the media, but also through house to house visits, giving people leaflets and explaining to families how to protect themselves from this pandemic. That is what helps explain and what does explain why the pandemic has spread so slowly. It’s not that it hasn’t entered Nicaragua, of course it has entered and has already caused one death, but its progress has been slow; and everyone affected has been as a result of outside contact.

Over the last few days they arrested a Nicaraguan girl in Costa Rica, a 17-year-old girl, who was pregnant. The Costa Rican authorities arrested her because she was crossing the border illegally. Immediately the media there began reporting that the Nicaraguan girl had Coronavirus. But the Costa Rican authorities, acting with great professionalism, seriousness, and responsibility, examined her and said: She does not have Coronavirus! That is to say, a Nicaraguan woman has not been found carrying the virus from Nicaragua to a sister country.

But yes, sister and brother Nicaraguans arriving from other countries, when they come, they are detected; they may not arrive seriously ill, but they are subject to the corresponding procedure [at the airport and borders]. The majority have left the process of care, examination, follow-up, treatment [and have recovered], even some serious cases that seemed to be dying.

One of them, a very well-known comrade of ours, lived in the United States, and arrived very, very seriously ill, including from other illnesses he already had. And well, we prayed to God, and he managed to survive the state he was in, thank God, when he seemed about to die. There was another woman who arrived very seriously ill. That is, when the doctors began caring for her, they thought it would be hard for her to survive.

But they received care from Nicaraguan doctors, who are highly specialized, highly skilled, not only because they have studied in our country, but also because they studied specialized careers, specializations in other countries, in other sister nations.

In Cuba, in the Soviet Union, how many doctors studied [medical] specialties? In Mexico, how many doctors have done specializations there! In Venezuela, how many Nicaraguans have received specialized training! And how many specialized doctors from the United States too… in other words, we do have highly specialized doctors.

And as for hospitals? Practically 90% of the hospitals that are in the public health system are equipped with all the basic resources to care for patients to the extent of the bed capacity that these hospitals allow.

There are enough respirators. Thank God it has not been necessary to use all the ventilators; some have been used, but not all have been used.

Intensive Care Units? Yes, we have Intensive Care Units everywhere, with highly specialized doctors.

The reserve of medicines in the health system, in the whole public health system, including of course the Social Security system, there we are talking about 90% and sometimes more, and some medicines that only the State has, like Interferon for example.

In other words, we have the capacity to care for the population, while the rate at which the epidemic has spread has been one we have managed to control… Yes, we have managed to do so!

In other words, we didn’t call for a stampede. If we had triggered a stampede, what happens to people in stadiums would have happened to us—we would have been crushed. Instead, in an orderly manner, and guided by international standards, we have been adopting a series of measures and applying them according to our national reality, our material possibilities, our economic possibilities, our scientific possibilities.

Meanwhile, the police are also protecting the country’s security. Imagine, if we were to send the Police to isolate themselves, or if we sent the Army to isolation, and rural workers to isolate themselves and stop producing, the country would simply disappear. So here it has been a combination of careful measures to be able to deal with this plague.

The latest data was given today by Doctor Saenz. He gave the latest data on the cases we currently have. In the region we have the least number of cases.

Of course, it’s also true that we have many hospitals, we have built many hospitals; even the hospitals they burned down in April 2018, we have already rebuilt them; the health posts they burned down that April, we have already rebuilt them. Yes, we have already rebuilt all that! And all the equipment, and medical instruments they destroyed by fire in April, we have already bought and replaced them.

We’re building roads, we’re opening bridges. Yes, for example the Malacatoya Bridge, a historic bridge, just like the highway to San Carlos, after years and years, after centuries waiting for that highway. The Malacatoya Bridge, which is the second largest bridge in Nicaragua, opened in the midst of this situation, and none of the workers have been affected. No cases have been found in the town of Malacatoya.

So, the thing now is to continue managing with follow-up, with permanent monitoring. In any case, when patients are found to have signs that could be symptoms of the virus, they are isolated and treated, and once they have passed the isolation period, well, if they are ok then they go home, they get to go back out on the streets.

I do believe that this is the time for change in the world. This is a sign from God, yes… this is a sign from God, who is telling us: You are going the wrong way, spending trillions on atomic bombs, on atomic weapons, on military bases, on military alliances. It is fine for the army to protect a country’s sovereignty and territory and a country’s security—that is all right. And the Police, that is fine. But those transnational forces now only aspiring to dominate the whole planet; that is a sin!

And God is telling us, the Lord is telling us, the Lord is sending us this sign, and this is our chance to make a change towards Peace. This is the time for those great resources to be used decisively once and for all, the peoples of these countries that are suffering the onslaught of this pandemic, the peoples of the developed countries that are suffering, it is hitting them terribly, they can decide to tell their Governments: No more money for nuclear arms, for sophisticated weaponry. Let us limit weapons to those needed to protect our territory.

And those funds that have already been allocated, amounting to billions and trillions, let them be reallocated to build hospitals for the poor, for the people and for the workers, right in the United States, who so badly need them. They should be given all the medical equipment needed so they are prepared to face situations such as this. Because this is not the first time a pandemic has ravaged the world, but it is the first pandemic to hit this hard. Although pandemics have affected the developed world before, this one is hitting the developed world much harder, and it is hitting international markets, it is hitting stock prices, and it is hitting the world economy.

So, it is time to swap nuclear weapons for hospitals, for health posts, for all the basic conditions that can be provided to the peoples of the developed countries, and for them to cooperate so that we in the developing countries can also enjoy that protection.

In other words, the best atomic weapon humanity can have is health, medicine, hospitals, preventive medicine, and curative medicine, and for that we need resources, and we know very well who has them, and we know very well how they use them; therefore, now is the time for change.

And it is time to change the United Nations as well, and we have been repeating this for years. The United Nations needs to be totally remodeled, reconverted, reconstituted… It must be re-founded, as Father d’Escoto said when he was President of the United Nations General Assembly. It must be re-founded, and he planted the Nicaraguan flag there, proposing the re-founding of the United Nations, the re-founding of all the instruments of the United Nations, the re-founding of those regional instruments which are also totally discredited, decrepit and worn out.

The world demands an ethical and moral re-founding, and that happens because resources need to be placed where they belong, so as to save lives and give security to families, and give true Christian Love to Humanity.

Thank you, Nicaraguan Sisters and Brothers.

BRIEFS

By Nan McCurdy

Ten Cases Total of COVID-19

Thirty-three days after registering its first case of Covid-19 on March 18, there have been a total of ten cases of Covid-19, of which seven recovered, two died and one is under treatment. Nicaragua continues to have the lowest contagion rate of Covid-19 in all of the Americas. The latest Health Ministry report reveals that a 58-year-old man who came into contact with an imported case is patient number 10, and is in poor health. There are currently 12 people who had contact with one of the cases and who tested negative but are being closely followed. (Radiolaprimerisima, 4/21/20)

Presidential Address on Nicaragua and Covid-19

During a national address delivered on April 16, President Daniel Ortega stated that Nicaragua is facing the coronavirus pandemic applying measures established by the World Health Organization taking into account the realities of the country. “Since January of this year, when the WHO issued its alert on the spread of coronavirus, Nicaragua began to prepare by training doctors in the handling of the virus, establishing preventive information campaigns, border control, equipping 19 hospitals for the care of cases, acquiring reagents to diagnose cases and mobilizing medical brigades to disseminate preventive information house to house and monitor the health of Nicaraguans.” The President also stressed that “the country has been able to continue working and producing to guarantee food security for the population, relying on the discipline and responsibility of Nicaraguans to follow the measures announced by the Ministry of Health. This does not mean that we are exempt from the effects of the virus, it is a reality that it has entered the country with 9 cases already detected of which one person has died, however, the spread has been slow and so far, we do not have local transmission, this is due to the protocols for early detection, contact tracing, monitoring and the responsibility of the population.” (Nicaragua News, 4/16/20)

Daniel Corners Social Networks with Hospitals vs. Bombs Speech

In a matter of a few hours, President Daniel Ortega became the greatest influence in the country’s recent history by dominating social networks without having an official account in any of them. Companies that measure the traffic and interaction on the networks said that from late afternoon of April 15 until the morning of April 16, 34 million people had seen Daniel’s 32-minute speech calling on the world to invest in hospitals not nuclear bombs. Even the opposition media on social networks transmitted the presidential message on their platforms and it was reported by FOX, CNN, Univision, Bloomberg, TELESUR, BBC, all the international news agencies and all the main media of the Americas including The Washington Post and New York Times, El País from Spain; among others. (Radiolaprimerisima, 4/17/20)

World Health Organization Acknowledges Confinement Hurts the Poorest

On April 16, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that physical isolation “is almost impossible” in poor countries being hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and called on their governments to be cautious about imposing containment.  Authorities “should consider that in some countries and communities, orders to stay home may not be practical, and may even cause unintended harm,” Tedros said at his weekly meeting with international diplomatic missions in Geneva. “Millions of people around the world have to work every day to put a plate on the table, and they cannot stay home for long periods of time without assistance,” he said, expressing concern about violence in various parts of the world due to restrictions. Tedros added that the pandemic has forced children out of school, “putting some at greater risk of abuse,” and depriving children from attending schools that are often their main access to food and health care. (Radiolaprimerisima, 4/17/20)

Nicaragua Purchasing More Test Kits

On April 15 President Ortega authorized Minister of Finance Iván Acosta to sign an agreement with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), for the purchase of test kits produced by South Korea for early detection of the coronavirus. The US$2.1 million agreement is part of the support provided by CABEI to member states of the Central American Integration System (SICA). (Nicaragua News, 4/16/20)

Over 3 Million Home Visits

The Health Ministry reported that medical brigades have made more than 3 million house-to-house visits, educating on prevention measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and to monitor the health of Nicaragua families. (Nicaragua News, 4/20/20)

3 Week Campaign Vaccinates Against 12 Illnesses

Nearly 2 million vaccines against twelve diseases will be given to children, young people and adults during the National Immunization Campaign, which began April 15 and will end on May 8. Over 1.2 million children between 6 months and 8 years will also receive the corresponding dose of vitamin A and 1.6 million children between 1 and 12 years of age will receive deworming treatment. “Vaccines will be applied in the neighborhoods, health centers and house to house, with all the health brigadistas,” said Dr. Ligia Aragon, an epidemiologist. The brigadistas will vaccinate against Polio, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis, Pertussis, Influenza B, Pneumococcus, Measles, Rubella, Mumps, Influenza and Rotovirus. (Radiolaprimerisima, 4/20/20)

Government Provides Loans for 2,000 Women

The government microloan program “Zero Usury” provided financing to 2,000 women in 80 municipalities for starting or expanding small restaurants and miscellaneous stores in urban areas. (Nicaragua News, 4/16/20)

Taiwan Donates Masks

The Government of Taiwan donated 280,000 masks on April 15 to guarantee the protection of health personnel dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. (Radiolaprimerisima, 4/16/20)

Largest Beef Exporter in Central America

Agriculture Minister (MAG) Edward Centeno reported April 15 that Nicaragua exported 73 million pounds of beef during the first quarter of 2020, registering 20% growth in comparison to the same period in 2019. The Central American Economic Integration Secretariat (SIECA) reported that Nicaragua exported US$154 million in beef during the first three months, making it the number one beef exporter in the region. (Nicaragua News, 4/15/20)

Climate Change Mitigation

Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) Sumaya Castillo participated last week in a virtual meeting with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The meeting was called to evaluate plans for “Strengthening Resilience of Multiple Use Protected Areas to Generate Global Environmental Benefits 2020-2025” Project and establish the methodology for the FAO workshop on sustainable land management and climate change mitigation. Financed by the Global Environment Fund (GEF), the aim of the project is to strengthen management of 13 multiple-use protected areas through sustainable use of wet and dry forests to protect biodiversity, sustainable land management and mitigation of climate change. (Nicaragua News, 4/20/20)

 

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