Cuba helping the world fight COVID-19, despite U.S. government’s retaliation efforts
Cuban doctors file out during a farewell ceremony as they get ready to leave for Italy to help with the coronavirus pandemic, in Havana, Cuba, April 12, 2020. | Ismael Francisco / AP

HAVANA—While the United States tries to disqualify Cuba’s international medical cooperation, the list of brigades sent by the island to fight COVID-19 in different latitudes of the planet grows.

They are the members of the Henry Reeve Contingent, created in 2005 by Fidel Castro to face situations of serious epidemics and natural disasters. It is a legacy of the traditional practice of solidarity within the Cuban Revolution, which has never hesitated to come to the aid of other peoples suffering from earthquakes, floods, and other calamities, such as the recent battles against dengue and Ebola in three West African countries.

With such a history and wealth of experience, Havana received and continues to receive requests from various parts of the world for its health experts to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, even though its specialists were already present in 59 countries.

That is why in the last three months Cuba has sent 38 health brigades to 31 countries and territories, a deployment that marks a new milestone in this practice of helping when needed. To confront the spread of the new coronavirus, 3,440 health workers have been mobilized from Cuba, 65% of whom are women.

There are also 1,944 nursing graduates working in these contingents. The Cubans in white coats are in Venezuela, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Suriname, among other countries in the region. They also work in Angola, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, South Africa, Cape Verde, and the Republic of Guinea.

The presence of Cuban health experts is growing in nations of the Persian Gulf as well—Oman, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, among others. They were ready to save lives in Italy and Andorra, but also in the Turks and Caicos Islands (overseas territories of the United Kingdom), and Martinique, under French sovereignty.

To sign the petition to nominate the Henry Reeve Brigades for the Nobel Peace Prize, go to:

These are countries whose governments are historic allies of the United States but who are not buying into Washington’s crusade against Cuba’s international health performance.

While Donald Trump accuses Havana of subjecting its doctors to human trafficking and even to forms of slavery, the reality is that there is growing interest in the world to have Cuba’s help in combating the pandemic and even in the post-COVID-19 period, whenever that comes.

While this is happening, Washington threatens to retaliate against those who seek and use the medical cooperation of this small, blockaded country, despite the havoc the pandemic is wreaking on the world.

Cuba has been emphatic that its health experts do not go out to look for work. They travel voluntarily in compliance with an agreement by which their job in Cuba is waiting for them when they return and they receive a full monthly salary, social security, and also receive a stipend.

Cuban cooperation has several modalities. In some cases, Cuba pays the stipend and the recipient country pays for local logistics. Others are through medical services and technical assistance, an export of services with a high humanitarian content and in defense of health and life.

The income from these services contributes to sustaining the Cuban health system, which is universal and free for the entire population. It is also used to purchase technology and inputs needed by this sector.

One paradox of these times is that while the United States wants to cut off Cuban medical cooperation, many young people from the U.S. are studying and graduating with medical degrees in Cuba free of charge. This is happening at the Latin American School of Medicine, which since 1999 has trained nearly 30,000 doctors from 100 countries.

Prensa Latina, North American Bureau, Translation by  Resumen Latinoamericano.


Orlando Oramas León
Orlando Oramas León

Corresponsal en México at Agencia Prensa Latina and Director editorial at Agencia Prensa Latina. Lives in Havana, Cuba.