Cuba and Ebola: Business or Solidarity? / 14ymedio
Posted on October 24, 2014
THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Only Cuba and a few NGOs are offering what this
major emergency needs: professionals prepared to treat patients.”
THE WASHINGTON POST: “The export of medical services will net Cuba 8.2
billion dollars in 2014, according to a recent report in the [Cuban]
14ymedio, 23 October 2014 — Days after publishing an article
entitled “Cuba stands at the forefront of the fight against Ebola,” the
Spanish daily El País goes a bit further with a discussion of the
issue. “The landing of white coats in countries decimated by scarcities
allows Cuba to generate prestige with its international presence, to
reset its conceptual discourse about fundamental human rights, and to
promote government alliances in a good part of Africa, Asia and Latin
America… where its vaccines and bandages are appreciated more than the
Western powers’ exhortations for democracy,” writes Juan Jesus Aznarez.
In addition, the newspaper echoes the news that doctors who travel to
West Africa and contract the virus will not be repatriated.
“Although the United Station and other countries have expressed
willingness to contribute money, only Cuba and a few NGOs are offering
what this major emergency needs: professionals prepared to treat
patients,” says an editorial in the New York Times praising Cuba’s
involvement in sending human resources.
In August, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a roadmap to
address the crisis caused by the epidemic. Since then the needs of all
types required by such an outbreak have been specified. So far 4,877
people of the 9,936 reported cases (almost all in West Africa) have
died. Among the affected, there are 443 health workers, of whom 244 died.
WHO needs financial aid of some one billion dollars to pay for the
salaries of professionals, materials, courses and information
campaigns. The collection so far has reached only one-third of that and,
if the outbreak behaves according to the agency’s predictions, financial
needs could soar to 20 billion.
But WHO has run into a serious funding problem: the shortage of human
resources. “Money and materials are important, but those two things
alone can not stop the transmission of the Ebola virus. Human resources
are clearly our most important need,” said its director, Dr. Margaret Chan.
Cuba is an economically failed country, with a per capita income of just
$ 6,011 (2011 data), but it has one of the highest rates of physicians
per 10,000 people: 59. Havana has turned its medical power into a huge
business, according to the official newspaper Granma, receiving more
than eight billion dollars a year for services provided abroad. The
government sells the labor of health workers at a high price and pays
them low wages (e.g., Brazil pays $4,300 for each Cuban doctor; the
doctor actually receives only $1,000).
Who will pay the expenses and salaries of the 461 doctors and nurses
Raul Castro’s government has committed to fight Ebola in Africa? This
information was not revealed, and the WHO director, normally very
talkative about the exploits of the Cuban regime with regards to public
health, has not said a word about it.
“Critics have complained that Cuba has begun to sacrifice the health of
its citizens at home to make money sending medical workers abroad, and
the conditions for these medical workers themselves have been
criticized,” said an editorial in The Washington Post. The text,
entitled “In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above
its weight,” was complimentary overall, and so was reproduced in
Cubadebate.cu, a government run website, but with a few corrections
added, including: “The country has undertaken a comprehensive plan to
repair its health facilities and perfect its patient care system, based
on the recognized dissatisfactions with the services.” It remains to be
seen if these will materialize.
Source: Cuba and Ebola: Business or Solidarity? / 14ymedio | Translating