Havana. October 14, 2004
Cuban doctors continue saving lives in Haiti
• Some 500 of the island's doctors are lending their services in the remotest area of that country • A 64-strong brigade is currently working in Gonaives, badly damaged by Hurricane Jeanne
JOSE A. DE LA OSA—Granma daily staff writer—
THE 64 members of the Cuban Medical Brigade who are lending their cooperation in the Haitian city of Gonaives, damaged during Tropical Storm Jeanne, “are in very good health and have even redoubled their valuable aid,” confirmed Enrique Orta González, head of the International Cooperation Department attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX).
During this hurricane season with its fierce storms, the Haitian port city of Gonaives, situated in the northwest of the country, has been
particularly affected by extensive flooding, with the high toll of more than 2000 deaths and thousands of disappeared.
Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, said yesterday in Port-au-Prince that at least 8,000 people are living in temporary shelters in Gonaives. They have nothing. They have lost everything in the floods, she added. Bellamy announced that UNICEF is to ask in New York for more attention and support in this emergency, and noted that the population at risk in Gonaives includes 30,000 children under five and 8,000 pregnant or nursing women.
“Even before this present crisis, Haitian children were among the most vulnerable in the world,” Françoise Gruloos Ackermans, the organization's Haitian representative, emphasized.
Televised footage has made it possible to appreciate the disorder and violence created by poverty as well as the suffering of the Haitian people, which international aid was alleviating, but which then deteriorated again as a consequence of the adverse we
ather, “but not a single Cuban volunteer has suffered a scratch,” assured the MINREX official.
“Because of the prestige and affection that their humanitarian and solidarity work has earned them, our doctors are being protected by the population itself and still have the necessary medical and food supplies to be able to do their work.
“Their families,” emphasized Orta, “can feel reassured and proud of the fact that although they are working under difficult conditions, providing medical attention in the most isolated and destitute areas, the doctors are invariably being taken care of and are receiving the necessary support from Haiti's Ministry of Health, the Red Cross and the leadership of our nation.”
When the floods began, a command post (National Coordination Point) was created in Port-au-Prince to maintain constant communication with the volunteers in Gonaives, the city most affected by the torrential rains, primarily to ensure their physical safety. “But, according to information r
eceived, despite the water rising to a height of one and a half meters, none of them had to be evacuated.”
While carrying on with their regular activities, the volunteers immediately took on the task of helping the population clear up, and disseminated public health information on the radio and through other means concerning measures that should be taken to prevent epidemics. In addition, they began to rescue medical equipment in the facilities in which they are working, including those at the Providence hospital in Gonaives, many of which were “buried under the mud.”
Electro-medicine engineer members of the Cuban brigades are in charge of the repair and recovery of that equipment.
At this moment, the brigade's force is subdivided into various points throughout the city of Gonaives to provide medical attention at the Campana Hospital, three mobile clinics, a NGO office and two churches that are sheltering a large number of evacuees. The Campana hospital has a delivery room at full capac
ity, in which specialists are offering medical care in obstetrics, surgery and orthopedics.
From September 25 to date, more than 12,000 Haitians have received medical attention, mainly for fevers and coughs, skin infections and lesions.
In Haiti, some 500 health workers are lending their support within the Integral Cooperation Program (PIS), and are located in the country's most remote areas.
The MINREX Department of Cooperation highlighted the extremely altruistic sense of our health workers. When they learned of the state of emergency in Haiti, the doctors who were on vacation in Cuba suspended their holidays and, at their own request, resumed their work in that Caribbean nation
Cuba's medical alliance with other countries began in the early 1970s when a brigade went to Algeria, but it was on September 28, 1998, in the wake of Hurricane George, that President Fidel Castro presented the idea of a integral health program for Haiti.
ently came the offer to send thousands of Cuban doctors to provide free medical care in Central America, in response to the worst natural disaster in two centuries in that region and the damage wreaked by Hurricane Mitch.
Presently, via the PIS, 2,600 doctors are lending their cooperation to the most needy populations of 24 countries, while undertaking action to train the human resources required to guarantee the sustainable development of health in poor nations.
In Africa there are three medical faculties with Cuban professors in Equatorial Guinea, the Gambia and Eritrea. Eritrea is one the newest and has a total matriculation of some 400 students at different stages of their degree courses.
Simultaneously 17,700 scholarship students from 115 nations are studying in 30-plus medical specialties in Cuba.
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