Cuba Calls for Immediate International Action in W. Africa

November 3, 2014

Cuban President Raul Castro yesterday called upon the nations of the world to put politics aside, and join together to meet the "huge challenge to humanity" posed by "the dreadful epidemic advancing today on our fraternal peoples of Africa, and threatening us all." It is urgent the world community act promptly, "to avoid a humanitarian crisis of unpredictable consequences."

Cuba is already treating patients in West Africa, its first contingent of 165 doctors arriving in Sierra Leone arriving on Oct. 9. Two more Cuban brigades will leave on Tuesday (Oct. 21) for Liberia and Guinea.

Castro issued this call in opening an emergency Heads of State and Ministerial summit of the 12 nations in the Alliance of Bolivarian Peoples of the Americas (ALBA), convened on very short notice to discuss measures required to protect and prepare the Americas from and for the spread of the Ebola virus. Bolivia, Cuba, Guyana, Ecuador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Surinam, Venezuela, and the smaller Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, attended as well by high-level representatives of the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, were represented.

"I stand convinced that if this threat is not held back and resolved in West Africa, through an immediate and effective international response, with sufficient resources and coordinated by the World Health Organization and the United Nations, it may evolve into one of the gravest pandemics in the history of mankind," Castro said.

"Actually, such a noble and urgent endeavor demands the indispensable commitment and dedication of every nation in the world, to the extent of everyone's possibilities.

"We are of the view that this grave problem should not be politicized to avoid the risk of losing track of the main objective, which is helping to confront the epidemic in Africa and to prevent its expansion to other regions."

The Cuban President specifically stated that

"Cuba is willing [to] work side by side with every country, including the United States," to deal with this menace.

Raul Castro emphasized that confronting this challenge requires

"proper organization, planning and coordination, not only of the clinical and healing work but also of preventive measures."

Cuba would be submitting proposals to the summit on collaboration in training healthcare personnel and designing and implementing comprehensive preventive measures, "giving a priority to Haiti and the Caribbean countries," which are among the most vulnerable states.

Cuba, which implemented one of the most effective anti-AIDS programs at the height of that crisis, has developed both a significant medical training program in Cuba for doctors from poor nations—Raul Castro reported that just shy of 3,400 African doctors have been educated in Cuba absolutely free of charge—and has deployed tens of thousands of Cuban doctors and other health-care personnel abroad. More than 4,000 health care personnel are operating in Africa at this time, and over 45,000 in the Americas, 50% of whom are doctors.