Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to students at the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina in Havana today:
Muchas gracias por su hospitalidad. [Thank you very much for your hospitality]. I have really enjoyed this beautiful dance and music. Thank you very much.
In Latin America and particularly in Cuba, music and dance [have] well-known characteristics, and music and dance really make you happy. And when you are happy, you become healthy.
In my country Korea, I have seen many doctors who are really talented in dancing and singing music. I have [proof] here in Cuba that medical students and doctors are very talented. This seems to be a truth which we have seen today.
I know you are coming from many different countries, but you are studying with the help of Cuban people and Government medical science. I know that many people are coming for medical training, and also many people are coming for actual treatment. I am not here for getting any medical treatment, but I was treated nicely yesterday by Cubans. I had my hair cut in Cuba. So that is why I took off my hat to show how handsome I am looking.
Anyway, you should know how lucky, how happy and how fortunate a people you are, being trained in this most advanced medical school in the world. As you know, health and also protecting human lives from preventable and treatable diseases — that is one of our top priorities in the Millennium Development Goals.
There are millions of children who cannot celebrate their fifth birthday. There are many women who die just to give another life. There are many girls who die needlessly from preventable diseases. So in that regard, how to save our human lives who will die needlessly from preventable and treatable diseases — that is one of the United Nations’ goals and the priorities.
That is what Cuban people are doing here in Cuba and all around the world. I have seen for myself as the Secretary-General traveling around the world, how hard and how generously Cuban doctors are helping people live. Just a few years ago, in Haiti, [the] Cuban Medical Brigade came, and they saved tens of thousands of people who might have died. In many African countries, it is the Cuban doctors who really save lives. While it is very sad to see so many people still die, I think at this time you should feel very lucky and fortunate that you have such an opportunity for learning and getting trained in Cuba.
When I was in Korea immediately after the Korean War — I was a young boy — at that time, there were no Cuban doctors in Korea. I was one of the very malnourished boys. And a lot of my friends died from preventable diseases at that time. We didn’t even have classrooms. We didn’t have textbooks. We didn’t have anything. We didn’t have much to eat. We were very hungry.
But we were also very hungry and thirsty for studying. That’s why I am now serving as the Secretary-General — just being hungry for knowledge and education. Now this is exactly what you are doing, exactly what the Cuban Government is providing to you.
So what you have to do — I am asking you all students — learn as much as you can, and take this opportunity as much as you can. And let’s work with me and with the United Nations to make this world much, much healthier, and much, much stronger, where: there will be no women, no girls who will die needlessly from delivering babies; there will be no children who will be hungry; there will be no children who will die from malaria, tuberculosis, and all [the] preventable diseases.
I see from your faces, from this school, a much brighter, and much happier, much harmonious, stronger and healthier world.
Muchas Gracias. [Thank you very much.]
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