Cuban doctors fight Ebola in West Africa ‘voluntarily’
The world is full of praise for Cuba: No other country has sent as many
doctors to West Africa. Critics of the communist regime, however,
believe Havana’s using its doctors for political purposes – and at a
Cuba is showing the capitalist world how crisis aid should work. Since
the beginning of October, the communist island nation has sent more than
250 doctors and caregivers to West Africa. According to the World Health
Organization (WHO), 50 more are soon to follow.
Since the beginning of the outbreak in March, some 4,500 people have
lost their lives to the Ebola virus, mostly in the African nations of
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Internationally, the Castro regime’s health push has been very well
received. Both Margaret Chan, the WHO’s general secretary, and the
“Ebola czar” for the United Nations, David Nabarro, have personally
thanked President Raul Castro and his health minister Robert Morales for
their support. Even Cuba’s archenemy, the United States, has praised its
Cuba casts a shadow upon other nations with its contingent of helpers.
And not for the first time: Cuban doctors and nurses were also rushed to
Pakistan-administered Kashmir after the catastrophic earthquake there in
2005; there were many more Cuban doctors and nurses there, in fact, than
Pakistan itself sent. And in 2010 they were the first on the scene after
a similarly disastrous earthquake struck Haiti.
Other nations support crisis regions, sending helpers and supplies as
well. The procses can take a long time, however, as the current Ebola
epidemic in West Africa has made tragically evident.
But “Cuba is a special case,” says Jose Luis Di Fabio, who heads the
WHO’s Havana office.
“The country has the ability to react very quickly because of the
experience of the physicians and the political will to do so,” he said.
It’s precisely the country’s “political will” that Antonio Guedes judges
from a completely different perspective. Guedes is a Cuban, a doctor,
and president of the exile party Cuban Liberal Union (ULC) in Madrid.
For him, the political course Cuba is charting does not have altruism at
its core. Rather, the regime in Havana is more interested in
international attention and goodwill.
“Cuba is doing this first and foremost to polish its political image,
secondly for economic reasons, and thirdly, so that countries that have
received their help will vote in Cuba’s favor in international forums
like the United Nations,” Guedes told DW.
A staggering 50,000 employees of the Cuban health ministry are currently
serving abroad in 66 countries, according to the ministry. Of those,
30,000 are stationed in Venezuela. There are 12,000 in Brazil, 2,000 in
Angola, and a further 2,000 in other parts of Africa.
In total, almost a third of Cuba’s 83,000 doctors are working in foreign
The government in Havana earns more than six billion euros a year ($7.6
billion) through these doctors, because only a fraction of what the
doctors cost these foreign nations are paid out in their salaries.
Brazil pays Havana 3,100 euros per doctor per month. Only because of
pressure from Brazil’s government do these doctors now get at least 900
euros per month. According to WHO representative Di Fabio, the Cuban
government receives a daily flat rate of 190 euros per helper.
The Cuban Embassy in Berlin did not respond to DW’s request for
information as to the salaries of doctors in Ebola-affected regions.
Cuban health should expect to be in Africa for six months. By
comparison, doctors with international aid organization “Doctors without
Borders” remain at the Ebola mission for only six weeks, since the work
and safety precautions are so demanding.
To learn the proper handling and use of equipment, Cuban medical
personnel must complete and three week course at the ‘Pedro Kouri’
Institute of Tropical Medicine. However, should they become infected,
said institute director Jorge Pérez, they will be treated in a special
ward for international aid workers until they are healed or die from the
By comparison, volunteers from “Doctors Without Borders” who become
infected with Ebola are immediately transferred to their home country
and treated there, so they can be as close as possible to their families.
Given the lack of supplies in Cuba, the decision is understandable, says
Guedes, but says this is also a sign of the inhumanity of the regime in
Nevertheless, 15,000 volunteers from the Caribbean island are said to
have signed up for duty to fight Ebola.
Possible, says Guedes, but unlikely.
According to the ULC leader, there is no such thing as “voluntary” in
Cuba. “Whoever does not cooperate may lose his job, or at least his
position, or his son will not get a place at university.”
All of this, thinks Guedes, who runs a medical center in Madrid, does
not take away from the result, of course. “Naturally it is always good
when people, no matter where in the world, receive the help they need.”
Source: Cuban doctors fight Ebola in West Africa ?voluntarily? | News |
DW.DE | 25.10.2014 –