By Susana Corona Cruz
Italy, France, Jamaica, South Africa, and Argentina have all called on Cuba to send their doctors and help fight the COVID-19 pandemic in their worst-affected cities. Once again, the Cuban nation lets its medical solidarity shine around the world, shushing naysayers and reaching out to those who need it most.
As has happened with previous global pandemics, Cuban doctors are at the forefront of the battle, flying all over the world to help fight the coronavirus crisis.
Defying U.S. negative propaganda regarding the “indoctrination” of Cuban doctors with damaging rhetoric on how they were exploited workers, Cuba is revendicating the reputation of its healthcare workers as teams of doctors are sent to fight COVID-19 around the globe.
As with previous global pandemics like Ebola in West Africa and numerous other pandemics and natural disasters around the world, Cuba has shown its solidarity by sending medical teams abroad. As a country whose doctors and nurses are used to working in extreme conditions and with scarce resources, their help might be crucial in some of the worst affected areas, like Italy, where the prime minister called on Cuba’s Ministry of Health himself to ask for assistance in terms of medical staff. Without the delay and in a matter of hours Cuba sent 52 professionals to the city of Crema in Lombardy. There the team of Cuban nurses and doctors set up a field hospital with 32 beds and three ICU beds.
Global health aid and pride in it too!
So far, over the past few weeks, Cuba has sent 593 doctors and nurses to fight the coronavirus in 14 countries around the world including Italy, France, Jamaica, Venezuela, Suriname, Haiti, Belice, St Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica.
In these adverse times, Cuba is showing the importance of investing in public healthcare systems and everyone can see the irony in the fact that Italy, like the UK, is a member of the “Group of Seven” (G7) wealthy and industrialised nations of the world. Cuba, by stark contrast, is ‘a poor country’ severely impacted and crippled by decades of US embargo.
As Helen Yaffe, puts it:
“They don’t have this problem that [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson has and that [US President Donald] Trump has, which is that the public healthcare response interferes with private interest and the process of profit-making.”
Cuba may be very poor indoor indeed, Cuban hospitals may lack materials, infrastructures are old and crumbling, medicines often scarce, the most basic essentials like water and electricity sometimes fail, but the quality of attention of Cuban doctors is unparalleled with one of the world’s highest ratios of doctor per capita.
The World Health Organisation has recognised and praised Cuban doctors for their work in internationalising healthcare both at home and abroad. It has done so numerous times and the praise extends to the care Cuban doctors provide at home for their citizens and how they have a medicine school to train doctors from developing countries.
During a press conference in 2018, Tedros Adhanom, WHO’s Director General said:
“Cuba is the perfect place to learn how to achieve universal coverage, even with few resources.”
To naysayers that believe that sending doctors abroad is a business for Cuba’s government, well, yes, Cuban doctors are not sent out abroad for free, they are paid (and why wouldn’t they be) but there are many missions on which they embark voluntarily and offer their services completely free, especially in areas of conflict and extreme poverty who can
And, yes, Cuba’s government is far from perfect and it keeps 65% to 70% of the salaries Cuban doctors are paid when on missions abroad, but this 25% that they receive is still more than five times what they would earn back home. So yes, most doctors in Cuba are more than happy to go on health missions abroad.
Countries like Italy and Jamaica who have called on Cuba’s doctors to help them fight coronavirus are already praising their assistance and rapid response:
“In a time of emergency that we have with COVID-19, the Cuban Government, the Cuban people have risen to the occasion. They have heard our appeal and they have responded,” were the words of Jamaican Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Thank you Cuba <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ItalyCuba?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ItalyCuba</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/grazieCuba?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#grazieCuba</a> <a href="https://t.co/aptc26jAXF">https://t.co/aptc26jAXF</a></p>— Elena Brambilla (@elena_brambi50) <a href="https://twitter.com/elena_brambi50/status/1241771501059289089?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 22, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
From CubaCasa, we too want to hail Cuba, Cuban doctors, and their rapid response to the coronavirus crisis, flying around the world to save as many human lives as they can and putting their own lives at risk as they did with the Ebola outbreak in Africa and as they have done in countless other healthcare missions in impoverished parts of Latin America. Thank you for what you are doing. Your work goes beyond ideologies, political parties, and lefts or rights.
Cuban solidarity remains as strong as ever and experiencing it is easy when you get to know Cuba and Cubans. We pray the coronavirus nightmare will soon be over and many around the world will be able to travel to Cuba again and truly get to know what it’s all about, what their people are all about, especially when you stay in a casa particular in Havana or beyond, where you’ll get to experience first hand the warmth of the locals and their well-known eagerness to simply help and lend a hand whenever they can.