Cuban health brigades battle cholera in Haiti

Cuban physician cares for Haitian infant

Cuban physicians and health care teams are on the front lines of the battle against the cholera epidemic ravaging Haiti. As the British news paper, The Independent, recently noted, the Cuban revolutionary government’s health aid far outstrips that given by the U.S. government – despite President Obama’s pledge to mount a monumental humanitarian relief effort.

Cuba doctors first arrived in Haiti in 1998. When the country was struck last year by a devastating earthquake, the Cuban corps of 350 physicians sprang into action, providing much needed medical assistance. Cuba sent hundreds of additional physicians, nurses, and other health care providers to aid in this relief effort. After a couple of months, most other countries had pulled their relief teams out of Haiti, leaving the Cuban health care teams, Partners in Health, Doctors Without Borders and their Haitian colleagues as the principal providers of health care services. Cuba now has some 1,200 health care workers in Haiti.

Not yet recovered from the earthquake’s devastation, Haiti now is gripped by a cholera epidemic. At year’s end, the death toll from the epidemic was more than 3,300 people, with more than 150,000 infected with the disease. According to The Independent, Cuban physicians are working throughout the country and have treated some 30,000 cholera patients since the epidemic began in October 2010.

The Cuban government’s commitment to helping ensure the public health of its population and the health of the world’s peoples dates back to the earliest days of the Cuban Revolution. Currently, 25,000 Cuban physicians and an additional 10,000 other health care workers are providing clinical and preventive health services in 77 of the most impoverished countries in the world. Meanwhile, the Cuban people have free health care and enjoy a health status that rivals – and, in some instances, surpasses – that of the United States.

Cuban health brigades are sent wherever they are needed and only at the invitation of the receiving country’s government. This aid is provided without any strings attached. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Cuban government offered to send its Henry Reeve Brigade to aid Gulf coast victims of the storm. The U.S. government rejected this offer to help.

Monday, January 3rd, 2011 at 05:40