By David Sole
Countries around the world, hard hit by the Covid-19 virus, are turning to socialist Cuba for medical assistance. These include Italy, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Suriname and Jamaica among others. Cuba has a long history of sending doctors and other medical professionals on these international missions in times of crisis. A group of 53 Cuban health care workers has set up a field hospital in the hard hit Lombardy region of Italy following their arrival on March 22.
A British cruise ship with an outbreak of Covid-19 was denied assistance by a number of Caribbean nations last month. Only Cuba allowed the MS Braemar, with 1,063 passengers and crew, to disembark on March 18 to receive medical treatment and a flight home..
When Haiti was struck with a devastating cholera epidemic in 2010 Cuba sent 1200 health workers to provide medical assistance. During the ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014 hundreds of Cuban health care professionals were in the thick of things fighting to save lives in Sierra Leone.
Even during the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 1,100 Cuban doctors and other emergency workers were on the tarmac in Cuba ready to fly into New Orleans with all their medical supplies, food and water. President George W. Bush refused to accept this generous offer while he let the people of New Orleans go without any health care, food or water for long days on end.
The United States State Department has been putting pressure on countries seeking or accepting Cuban medical aid to refuse it. In response the director general for the United States of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, said: “at a time of crisis, when the northern nation is falling apart due to the negligence and greed of its government in dealing with Covid-19, the U.S. State Department criticizes nations that appeal to Cuba for medical assistance. ‘Terrible moral decadence,’ he stressed through his official Twitter account and reaffirmed Cuba’s willingness to provide medical assistance to the most needy.”
Meanwhile Cuba’s medical workers are fully mobilized to address the Covid-19 pandemic as it reaches the island nation. One effort involves workers going door to door to identify those who have fallen ill and having them transferred to hospital. Among those neighborhood teams are students from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). These are students from around the world who are studying medicine outside of Havana under full scholarship, including a number from the United States. One of these is Ivan J. Smiley who sent the following report to the International Foundation of Community Organizations (IFCO). Smiley reported:
The past couple of days, medical students both foreign and Cuban have been going door to door looking for possible cases of coronavirus. This small group of students has hit over 1000 homes and we still have many more homes to go. There have been more confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cuba, but we’ve found those cases and have been admitting them to specialized hospitals…. I’m studying medicine in Cuba on a full-tuition scholarship and if the President [of Cuba] calls on us to serve in a matter of national security, I have no issue doing what needs to be done, nor do the other future doctors in this photo. When the community, healthcare system, and government all work together, pandemics stay under control. We’re going out so in the near future, people can choose if they want to stay home or not. The army of white coats is already in China, Jamaica, Italy, Grenada, Venezuela, Nicaragua just to name a few countries. My front today is Cuba but tomorrow U.S.A