Cuban doctors continue there, where they are needed most › Cuba › Granma

The date May 23, 1963 represents a milestone in the history of Cuba. On that day, a plane transported 29 doctors, four dentists, 14 nurses, and seven health technicians to Algeria to provide permanent services to that city.

This is how the first international Cuban medical mission was founded, which has been present for 60 years in 165 countries with more than 600,000 collaborators, as explained by Dr. Michael Cabrera, Director of the Central Medical Cooperation Unit (UCCM).

“We have served populations from all continents, especially those living in hard-to-reach places and in rural areas. Also in countries very far from Cuba such as the Pacific Islands, in about 30 African countries, in most of the Caribbean and in a large number of Latin American countries.

-What are the most important moments in that story?

– I remember when the Commander-in-Chief, Fidel Castro Ruz, strengthened the comprehensive health program, in 1998, after Hurricanes Mitch and George passed through Central America.

“The beginning of the medical mission in Venezuela, which is the largest due to the number of Cubans included in it and the large number of areas it covers. There it was possible to develop a free and comprehensive public health system very similar to the Cuban system, implementing three levels of assistance: primary for community care, secondary for specialized services and tertiary for specialized treatments.

Members of the first Cuban medical team that carried out an international mission in Algeria picture: Orlando Cardona
Che visited Algeria in 1963 and met with members of the First Cuban Medical Brigade, which carried out an international mission in Algeria. picture: Granma Archive

“We also cannot fail to mention the establishment of the Henry Reeve Task Force in 2005, to respond to serious disasters and epidemics. So far, more than 90 brigades have been activated. Within it there are moments that represented a step in history, such as the earthquake that struck Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal, Haiti, and, of course, the confrontation with Ebola in Africa.

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“We must mention the fight against Covid-19, in which we were present in 42 countries with 58 medical teams.

“Currently we have 54 medical teams with more than 22,600 collaborators, which respond to the needs expressed by every government that requests our services. “We never go anywhere to impose our health system or standards, we just adapt to the needs of each place to serve its residents.”

– The US government wants to make you believe that Cuban medical cooperation is some kind of modern exploitation. What do you think?

-This is slander. Everyone who will undertake a medical mission passes through the UCCM and comes voluntarily, with the sole obligation to cooperate.

“Those of us who manage the collaboration and key employees of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health were at some point collaborators. It is a unique and enriching professional experience for everyone.

“In each country, we only help residents improve their health problems. Each of our doctors understands this, with the desire to contribute to his family’s income, to his city and to the country’s economy.

“What little or much they can generate in each of these tasks is used in Cuba for the sustainability of the national public health system. Collaborators know this, and their contributions improve working conditions in institutions, hospitals and polyclinics.

“Despite this unhealthy campaign, the standing of our medicine in the world continues to rise. Today we have orders from all continents, even from first world countries, and some in Europe. “We will continue to be there where we are needed most.”

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– The United States government has recently imposed two other measures that directly harm Cuban medical cooperation; First, to punish states that receive brigades, and second, to expand the privileges of dissenters…

– This is part of the same line of thought that aims to destroy the work of revolution, and in particular one of the most wonderful ideas: the idea of ​​offering solidarity to the people most in need.

“We are convinced that no strategy will be able to destroy this reality or any attempt to end the aid and assistance that we can provide because, despite these measures, requests for further Cuban cooperation have increased.”

Medical cooperation in Venezuela picture: Calixto n. Lanis

– What is your experience as a collaborator?

– When I was 25 years old, I joined the medical corps in Guatemala, and I was only one year away from graduating from college, and I had to help in the mountains. Then I traveled through other important countries, such as Venezuela, Dominica and Nicaragua.

“They all contributed to my training as a doctor. Experience always teaches. When I leave, I always feel a lump in my throat. We leave many friends and are overcome with sadness at being part of a community that welcomed us as one of its members.

“Cuban doctors are distinguished by their brotherhood, humanity, and courageous provision of assistance, and this is what distinguishes us among professionals from the rest of the world. “We are neither better nor worse, but we are different.”

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