Sanctions have forced Cubans to improvise, including bringing back oxen due to petrol shortages
Amnesty has challenged US President Barack Obama to deliver on his change agenda by taking the first step towards dismantling the “immoral” US blockade of socialist Cuba.
The human rights group has urged Mr Obama not to renew Trading with the Enemy Act sanctions against the island as it published its new report looking at the impact of the US economic embargo.
The deadline for the renewal of sanctions under the Act is September 14.
The report concluded that the sanctions, imposed by the US since 1962, are particularly affecting Cubans’ access to medicines and medical technologies and endangering the health of millions.
On the campaign trail last year Mr Obama told US citizens that, when “we win this election together, we’re going to change the country and change the world.”
Amnesty secretary general Irene Khan said: “This is the perfect opportunity for President Obama to distance himself from the failed policies of the past and to send a strong message to the US Congress on the need to end the embargo.
“The US embargo against Cuba is immoral and should be lifted – it’s preventing millions of Cubans from benefiting from vital medicines and medical equipment essential for their health.”
Under the blockade, Cuba faces severe restrictions on importing medicines, medical equipment or technologies from the US or from any US company abroad.
The sanctions also limit other imports to the island and restrict travel and the transfer of money.
Products patented in the US or containing more than 20 per cent US-manufactured parts or components cannot be exported to Cuba, even if they are produced in third countries.
Cuba’s inability to import nutritional products for consumption at schools, hospitals and daycare centres is contributing to a high prevalence of iron-deficiency anaemia.
Some 37.5 per cent of Cuba’s children under three years old are affected, according to UNICEF.
Children’s health was also put at risk by a decision from US syringe suppliers to cancel an order for three million disposable syringes made in 2007 by the UNICEF Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, when it became known that the units were destined for Cuba.
Similar situations have affected the implementation of UN programmes to prevent and fight HIV/AIDS on the island, according to Amnesty.
Ms Khan said that, while responsibility for providing adequate healthcare lies “primarily with the Cuban authorities, governments imposing sanctions such as embargoes need to pay special attention to the impact they can have on the targeted country’s population.”