COVID-19 Update: Cuba

Cuban Internationalism stands out during pandemic

CoDev often accompanies delegations to meet education and public administration partners in Cuba. During these visits two things that inevitably stand out as sources of pride for our hosts are the country’s comprehensive public health system and Cuban internationalism.

Cuban internationalism dates back to the early 1960s, but more recently it has increasingly taken the form of assisting other countries in achieving the basic human rights of education and healthcare. Cuban teachers assist throughout Latin America to guide literacy campaigns, while Cuban medical personnel work in many countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean in everything from restoring sight, to developing rural health networks and even constructing entire national public health systems (while now a little dated, the 2006 film Salud! provides an excellent overview of this work).

At the same time, tens of thousands of healthcare professionals from around the world have been trained at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, with a special emphasis on providing care to rural and marginalized populations.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, these sources of Cuban pride have come together in new ways. Shortly after the outbreak began in the Chinese province of Hubei, Cubans sent anti-viral drugs to help alleviate the impact of the virus. When no one else would accept the COVID-stricken British cruise ship MS Braemar, adrift for days seeking safe harbour, the Cubans took it in and treated the passengers before returning them to their home countries.

CoDev’s partners at the Cuban teachers’ and public administration workers’ unions report that, as in Canada, they are attempting to social distance and are working from home as much as possible. With 10,024 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 137 dead on the island of 11.5 million (as of 19 December 2020, John Hopkins University), Cuba has so far avoided the mass infections affecting the US, Europe and some parts of Canada. But the number of cases continue to rise, putting new strains on the country’s economic and healthcare resources.

Despite the growing need for medical staff at home, Cuba has recently sent medical teams to help numerous other countries combat the virus. This includes a large team to COVID-ravished Italy, whose own dedicated doctors have been stretched well beyond their limits caring for tens of thousands affected by the illness.

CoDev shares below a number of articles regarding Cuba’s remarkable medical internationalism in the face of the pandemic.  In response to the Trump administration warning countries against accepting Cuban medical aid, a petition is circulating that urges the Canadian government to publicly recognize the country’s contribution to the international effort to control the virus. CoDev supporters wishing to add their name to this petition can do so here.

Some useful articles on Cuba’s contribution to the international effort to control the COVID-19 pandemic:

The world rediscovers Cuban medical internationalism – Le Monde Diplomatique
What coronavirus revealed about national mindsets across the world and how Cuba came out on top – The Independent

“Humanitarian Solidarity”: Even Under U.S. Sanctions, Cuba Sends Doctor Brigade to
Cuba’s Coronavirus Response Is Putting Other Countries to Shame – Jacobin Magazine
Cuba Under Media Attack for Sending Doctors, Not Bombs, to Help Covid-19 Victims – FAIR

A team of Cuban doctors prepare to leave for Italy to assist in the fight against COVID-19
(photo: Jacobin Magazine)

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