March 29, 2020

Cuba: The Revolution’s Humanist Practice

Leydis María Labrador Herrera

Amidst the battle against Covid-19 on the island, the Cuban government has decided to continue international medical collaboration joining efforts around the world to contain the epidemic

#CubaSalva has taken off as a hashtag on social media and is even used in popular conversation, beyond the Internet, to refer to our country’s position in the complex situation the world is experiencing with the exploding Covid-19 pandemic.

This is no accident, but the result of a concrete reality, since more than 400,000 children of this earth have delivered a message of hope around the world, taking on the noble task of saving lives. For 56 years, 164 nations can testify to what has been a feat of solidarity, considering that this is an island constantly struggling against economic strangulation by an arbitrary, genocidal blockade.

Amidst the battle against Covid-19 on the island, Cuban government has decided to maintain international medical collaboration, and in those nations where Cuban internationalists are present, their efforts are directed toward confronting the pandemic and supporting implementation of measures adopted by local governments.

Here are the latest details regarding Cuba’s positive response to requests for help from other countries:

A small group of Cuban specialists arrived in this sister nation on March 16, to provide advice on effective control of the disease, followed by 136 members of Cuba’s Medical Brigade to reinforce primary care in communities, the front line in confronting Covid-19.

As the vice president of this nation, Rosario Murillo, had announced, Cuba confirmed its willingness to collaborate with the sister Republic of Nicaragua in the midst of this complex situation that is plaguing the world. Keeping its word, five professionals from Cuba arrived there on March 18.

In December of 2019, amidst celebrations for the 40th anniversary of relations between the two nations, the governments of Cuba and Suriname reaffirmed their commitment to collaboration. Under this precept, on March 20, 51 members of the Henry Reeve International Contingent arrived in the country, to join the fight against the new coronavirus.

Upholding the values of Cuban women and honoring their courage in the face of adversity, five intensive care nurses from the Henry Reeve Contingent departed for Grenada on March 20, to face the pandemic that has left thousands of homes around the world in mourning.

Some 140 members of the Henry Reeve Contingent departed for Jamaica on March 21 to battle the new coronavirus and Covid-19. They were greeted by the people with beautiful, moving expressions of love and admiration.

Although Europe has become the world region most affected by the pandemic, the situation in Italy is undoubtedly the most chaotic and desperate. Lombardy, the center of the outbreak, is recording high numbers of deaths every day, in the face of a collapsed health system and an exhausted workforce. This is where, for the first time in history, a brigade of 52 doctors and nurses, from the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specialising in Disasters and Serious Epidemics arrived on March 22nd, in an act of incomparable humanism.

Currently, of the 59 countries where Cuban collaboration in the health sector existed before the coronavirus outbreak, more than 30 have confirmed the presence of Covid-19. Cuban doctors and nurses continue their work in this battle, with two essential weapons, their proven professional ability and their strong sense of responsibility.

Several more nations have requested Cuban support, and others, blinded by political instability, neoliberalism in its purest form and hatred of Cuba’s social system, have rejected Cuba’s help. But, for the record, Cuba’s policy as a country in this situation has been very clear since the communiqué reporting its decision to give the MS Braemar cruise ship safe harbor was released, stating: “These are times of solidarity, of understanding health as a human right, of strengthening international cooperation to face our common challenges, values that are key to the humanist practice of the Revolution and our people”.

Cuba’s health authorities announced that new brigades of doctors and nurses with experience in handling critical situations are heading to Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica.

The first group with 25 health workers left for Belize from the Central Unit for Medical Cooperation in Havana. “We are aware that the current situation is difficult, but we are well prepared and ready to help save lives”, said nurse Orlando Borrero, who participated in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone in Africa and was on two other solidarity missions in Nicaragua. He also indicated that 33 more health workers will travel to Belize, where there will be 58 Cuban specialists in total.

Meanwhile, the US State Department criticised Cuban solidarity by depicting it as an act motivated by political and economic reasons. “Cuba offers its international medical missions….only to make up the money it lost….Host countries seeking Cuba’s help for Covid-19 should scrutinise agreements and end labour abuses”, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Affairs (DRL) tweeted.

Despite these interpretations, 500 Cuban doctors, most of them specialists in emergency and therapy, went to Buenos Aires province, in Argentina, to render their assistance.

Of the countries where Cuban medical brigades are present, Qatar, Algeria, China, South Africa and Kuwait have cases of infection within their populations.

In Guatemala Cuban personnel have the necessary resources to prevent contagion, including face masks, disinfectant solutions and medicines and attention has been increased for the 24 brigade members serving in locations along the border.

On the other side of the world, in Qatar, where the 499 members of the Cuban medical mission work in a single hospital, brigade chief Dr Ernesto Lopez Cruz, reported that, within the country’s population, several cases of coronavirus have been confirmed and there is also concern given the situation in neighboring nations such as Iran.

In total, there are 28,268 members of Cuba’s 61 medical brigades working abroad.

(With inputs from Granma and Telesur)