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You Can Help Cuba Save Lives around the World

April 7, 2020

Canadian Network on Cuba Launches Aid Campaign

Editor’s Note: Even as Cuba reaches out to help victims of Covid-19 virus on several continents, the U.S. government is tightening its blockade of the island, obstructing Cuba’s import of medical supplies needed to fight the deadly virus.

An appeal from the Canadian Network on Cuba, printed below, gives us all a chance to contribute materially to this vital expression of global solidarity. A separate post presents a related interview with John Kirk on Cuba’s long record of extending medical aid to other countries. Kirk is the author of Healthcare Without Borders.

With thanks to Linda Meissenheimer and Art Young, who provided the materials for this special feature and wrote the introduction that follows.

Cuban medical brigade arrives at newly built field hospital in Lombardy, Italy.

Introduction

By Linda Meissenheimer and Art Young, April 4, 2020: As the following fund appeal by the Canadian Network on Cuba explains, Cuba is responding to the grave international health emergency that the spread of the new coronavirus represents with an extraordinary display of generosity and human solidarity unmatched by any other country in the world.

Cuba has at the present time dispatched hundreds of doctors and nurses to more than a dozen countries, ranging from nearby Jamaica to distant Italy, one of the hardest-hit centers of the COVID-19 outbreak. All of the Cuban medical staff are volunteers. They are highly qualified: 61% of them have served in other internationalist missions, 40 of them in in the perilous struggle against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. 57% are women.

As Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has reiterated, Cuba’s single priority is the preservation of human life at any cost. Not only Cuban lives, but the lives of others as well. Cuba stands ready to dispatch medical brigades to other countries should they request assistance. The contrast with the chauvinist, profit-oriented conduct of Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau and other leaders of the Western world could not be plainer.

Cuba’s contribution to the world’s struggle against COVID-19 is all the more remarkable because it is a very poor country of only 11.2 million people, with a stagnant economy and rampant material shortages, including of vital medicines and medical equipment. Much of this can be attributed to the persistent U.S. economic embargo (Cubans call it a blockade) that prevents normal economic development and trade with other countries.

Successive administrations dating back to President John F. Kennedy have made it clear that the blockade will only be lifted if the Cuban people surrender their independence and follow Uncle Sam’s dictates. An overwhelming majority of Cubans refuse to pay this price.

Under Trump, American sanctions have increased markedly. Tourism and family visits to the island from the U.S. have been sharply curtailed, cutting off a crucial source of foreign currency. Similarly, limits on remittances, another vital source of support for Cuban families, have become more stringent. Companies that transport Venezuelan oil to Cuba have been sanctioned. Washington heavily penalizes foreign banks for handling transactions with Cuba.

In short, the American economic blockade is long-standing, far reaching, and profoundly cruel. In spite of the current COVID-19 global emergency, Uncle Sam refuses to suspend the application of its sanctions on Cuba even on a temporary basis. (Its attitude toward Venezuela is the same.) At the end of March the long arm of the blockade reached out to prevent medical supplies vitally needed for the struggle against COVID-19 from reaching the island. (https://tinyurl.com/wusjxrm)

Medical students surveying the health of the Cuban population

Yet, in the face of all this, Cuba has not flagged in its commitment to help others in their time of need. So it has continued to send scarce supplies and experienced medical personnel abroad, while the nation prepares to confront a deadly, invisible, and potentially devastating enemy at home.

Meanwhile, Washington is pressing other countries to turn down Cuban offers of aid. (Cuban doctors arrived a few days ago in Andorra after the tiny principality rejected U.S. “advice”.)

The blockade has not only severely weakened the country’s economy, it has also harmed Cuba’s highly regarded health system. Health workers now must meet an unprecedented challenge with limited material resources at their disposal. Unflinching, the country is girding for battle, wielding its scientific prowess, its experience in disaster medicine, and its often underestimated human resources. Medical students have been mobilized to knock on the door of every household on the island, surveying the residents to identify those with symptoms and refer them for testing and treatment. They explain how members of the family should conduct themselves to protect both themselves and their loved ones. As of this writing, the medical students have surveyed the homes of some 9.2 million people, 82% of the population.

Health workers are the new Cuban heroes, working night and day despite the risk to their own health, to identify, confine, defeat, and destroy the virus. Across the island people have begun paying tribute to them at 9 pm every evening, cheering, yelling, clapping, or waving from their balconies and doorsteps. In some neighbourhoods the national anthem is played.

This is a huge emergency. From conversations that we have had, we know that many friends of Cuba feel an urgent need to do something to help. The CNC now offers us a way to do so. Whatever the consequences of the pandemic on the island, Cuba insists that it will maintain and expand its on-call international medical brigades as a matter of principle. This costs serious money. Canadian dollars go a long way in Cuba. Please give generously to the CNC fund to help Cuba continue its life-saving work.

Campaign to Support Cuba’s Contribution to World Fight Against COVID-19

Isaac Saney, CNC Spokesperson, March 30, 2020

The Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) is launching the Campaign to Support Cuba’s Contribution to World Fight Against COVID-19 to assist the heroic island’s internationalist medical missions that are combatting the pandemic across the world. At the time of writing, Cuba has more than 800 medical personnel serving humanity in the trenches of 16 countries against the dreaded corona virus: including Italy (currently with the greatest number of fatalities), Spain, Andorra, in Europe; Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Grenada, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Belize, in the Caribbean; Venezuela and Nicaragua, in Latin America, and Angola in Africa. In the coming days more Cuban medical missions will be dispatched to other countries.

Behind the Mask (below): Claudia Bracho Cardentey, 25 years old. Microbiologist

Currently, at least, 45 countries have sought to use Cuba’s Interferon Alfa 2B Recombinant (IFNrec) for confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.  The international profile and acknowledgement of IFNrec is steadily growing. For example, there is the March 24 Newsweek article, “Cuba Uses ‘Wonder Drug” to Fight Coronavirus Around the World Despite U.S. Sanctions,” and, “The World Rediscovers Cuban Medical Internationalism,” in the March 30 issue of Le Monde Diplomatique. The Chinese National Health Commission is using IFNrec as a crucial component of the anti-viral treatment to combat the coronavirus.  In the recently published extensive medical handbook by Zhejiang University School of Medicine on how to treat COVID-19 based on China’s experience with the pandemic, IFNrec is identified as a significant part of the treatment. It has been very effective among the most vulnerable patients in China, Cuba, and Italy.

Cuba’s medical missions and other generous assistance to humanity in this time of pandemic reflects the island’s history and dedication over the last six decades of always standing with the peoples of the world in their time of need.  During the course of the Cuban Revolution more than 400,000 Cuban healthcare workers have served in 164 countries.

For example, many of the medical personnel now intimately involved in the fight against COVID-19 in the 16 countries mentioned are part of the specially trained Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade against Disasters and Serious Epidemics, which distinguished themselves the fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Cuban internationalist medical missions have often been compared to dreamcatchers. Just as dreamcatchers allow only good dreams to pass through, while preventing nightmares, so too the Cuban medical internationalist missions do their utmost to stop the nightmares of disease from reaching the people.

Cuba is also engaged in its own fight against COVID-19. It is doing this in the face of an unrelenting economic war waged by the United States against the people of Cuba: a war that limits the island’s access to equipment and other necessary items required to preserve the health of Cubans. However, as it has always done, and continues to do, the Cuban government affirms and upholds that healthcare is a human right and places the well-being of its people at the centre of its policies and political decisions.

The Campaign to Support Cuba’s Contribution to World Fight Against COVID-19 echoes the 2010 CNC Cuba for Haiti Campaign, which was warmly and enthusiastically received by Canadians. As Haitians struggled to recover from the devastating earthquake, more than $200,000 were raised to assist the Cuban medical mission in Haiti. That campaign demonstrated the confidence that the Canadian people have in Cuba, with many people giving contributions simply on the grounds that their money would safely reach its destination and not be squandered in corruption or misused. This shows the respect and admiration of Canadians for the Cuban people and their efforts to build and defend a society centred on independence, justice and human dignity.

For more information on the Campaign to Support Cuba’s Contribution to World Fight Against COVID-19 contact Keith Ellis, Coordinator, Campaign to Support Cuba’s Contribution to World Fight Against COVID-19 at: (905) 822-1972 or Isaac Saney, CNC Spokesperson at: (902) 449-4967

To contribute to the Campaign to Support Cuba’s Contribution to World Fight Against COVID-19: cheques should be made out to the “CNC”, with “COVID-19” written in the memo, and then mailed to:

c/o Sharon Skup
56 Riverwood Terrace
Bolton ON  L7E 1S4

[Donations can also be made via e-transfer. For instructions, write Sharon Skup at ccfatoronto@sympatico.ca or call her at (905) 951-8499 – LM & AY]

 

2 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
    Currently, at least, 45 countries have sought to use Cuba’s Interferon Alfa 2B Recombinant (IFNrec) for confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.

    To contribute to the Campaign to Support Cuba’s Contribution to World Fight Against COVID-19: cheques should be made out to the “CNC”, with “COVID-19” written in the memo, and then mailed to:

    c/o Sharon Skup
    56 Riverwood Terrace
    Bolton ON L7E 1S4

    [Donations can also be made via e-transfer. For instructions, write Sharon Skup at ccfatoronto@sympatico.ca or call her at (905) 951-8499 – LM & AY]

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