MEDICC Urges Greater Cooperation with Cuba and Other Nations in Fight against Ebola

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Cuba to send a 165-member medical team to Sierra Leone

Only politics knows barriers; disease does not. This humanitarian disaster is an opportunity for countries to work in partnership towards one goal—the end of the Ebola epidemic.

MEDICC called on the international community to offer resources and cooperate with nations such as Cuba, which have made a commitment to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. On September 12, Cuba announced it would send a 165-member medical team to Sierra Leone in the next few weeks--the largest health professionals’ team sent by any one country.

Cuban Health Minister Roberto Morales has indicated that the Cuban volunteers will be working under the umbrella of the World Health Organization (WHO), and will include 62 physicians and 103 nurses, each with significant experience confronting natural disasters and epidemics abroad. He also said that each has, “expressed their readiness to work together, side by side, with doctors of any dedicated country, including the USA.”

Dr. Peter Bourne, MEDICC Board Chair and a former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, commented: “Only politics knows barriers; disease does not. This humanitarian disaster is an opportunity for countries to work in partnership towards one goal—the end of the Ebola epidemic. I urge all nations to cooperate fully in the unprecedented global effort needed urgently. And I hope to see that the United States is able to make that happen with the Cuban team on the ground.”

President Obama has committed the USA to establish new field hospitals, create a training site for new health workers, and use the US military to help facilitate the distribution of medical supplies and aid personnel. These resources join health specialists from the Center for Disease Control already on the ground in West Africa.

Cuba's track record of offering disaster responders to other countries dates back six decades. Most recently, medical personnel has been dispatched to the Caribbean and Central America (1998 Hurricanes George and Mitch), Pakistan (2005 earthquake) and Haiti (2010 earthquake). The island’s ongoing international medical cooperation is carried out with personnel in 66 countries, and also includes graduating nearly 25,000 doctors from over 120 countries trained at the Latin American Medical School.

Unprecedented Epidemic Prompts Calls for Worldwide Action

Weak public health systems in West African countries have been overwhelmed by the epidemic that has infected 5,300 people and killed 2,600, with projections of tens of thousands of fatalities unless efforts are substantially and quickly increased.

In her recent address to the UN Security council, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said, “This is likely the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced. None of us experienced in containing outbreaks has ever seen, in our lifetimes, an emergency on this scale, with this degree of suffering, and with this magnitude of cascading consequences. This is not just an outbreak. This is not just a public health crisis. This is a social crisis, a humanitarian crisis, an economic crisis, and a threat to national security well beyond the outbreak zones.”

Since 1997, MEDICC has worked to enhance cooperation among the US, Cuban and global health communities aimed at better health outcomes and equity. MEDICC produced the feature film ¡Salud! and publishes the MEDLINE-indexed journal MEDICC Review. MEDICC supports research in Cuba by US health professionals, assists US students and graduates of Havana’s Latin American Medical School to return to US underserved communities, and organizes Community Partnerships for Health Equity to improve health care and access in communities such as South Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; The Bronx, New York; and Milwaukee, Wisconson. See: http://www.medicc.org

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Jeannie Barbieri-Low
MEDICC
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