The Cuban ‘White- Coat Army’ to the rescue
Editor: The Cuban contingents of doctors and nurses currently being deployed throughout the Caribbean and Latin America as well as countries like Italy, in response to the ravages of the COVID-19 disease, have not been sent in those countries as some knee-jerk or opportunist action.
They are consistent with Cuba’s principled policy of internationalism, helping others irrespective of political or ideological considerations. There are now more than 29,000 Cuban medical personnel in 59 countries around the globe helping to combat disease and bringing relief and hope to millions of sufferers. Interestingly, the export of medical services is now a major export of Cuba bringing in a reported US$ 6 billion in 2018.
But the Cuban medical brigades in Jamaica, St Lucia, Italy, and St Vincent and the Grenadines to name a few, do not fall within that category. They represent selfless Cuban cooperation, even though that country continues to suffer from the impact of cruel US sanctions which reduce the extent to which Cuba can further develop its medicinal capacity and so further help even more people worldwide.
A leading Cuban health official, Ms. Marylin Celestin, commenting on the situation last Friday, told the Prensa Latina news agency that:
“Despite the limitations imposed by the Us blockade policy, our country is capable of dealing with the pandemic with a public health system that reaches all the population, free of charge”. She went on to stress that, in addition to ensuring the good health of the island’s inhabitants, “internationalist brigades have gone out to help other nations and are once again going to raise the ‘white-coat army’ as Fidel (Castro) called it”.
In addition to the thousands of medical personnel, in the specific case of COVID -19, a significant part of the Cuban assistance is the Cuban-developed drug, Interferon, officially Interferon Alpha 2b Human recombinant supplies, used to combat this global disease. Interferon has been used since the 1980s in cases of acute respiratory conditions and viral infections, including hepatitis B and C, shingles and HIV/AIDS.
It is produced by the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Technology (CIGB) in Cuba. Almost 50 nations worldwide have requested the drug, including some of the countries hardest-hit by COVID such as China, Italy and Iran. SVG is one of several Caribbean countries to benefit from this Cuban drug.
The significance of such Cuban assistance must not be underestimated. It contrasts starkly with the outlook of some much more powerful than Cuba. I heard, for instance, US President Donald Trump, speaking about the need for his country to develop a vaccine so that Americans can combat the disease and, quite generously, spoke of even being able to help other countries, if they produced enough to spare.
The Cuban outlook is in direct contrast to this. A friend does not only help if he/she has enough to spare, friendship, humanitarianism, internationalism, involve making sacrifices to help, not just giving surplus. Additionally, some of those countries which have sought, and received Cuban assistance, are among countries which have acquiesced in US efforts to prevent Venezuelan oil supplies to Cuba. Yet this is not a barrier to Cuban assistance.
Should we not think again?