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How Cuban Doctors Helped Pakistan After 2005 Earthquake

The 2005 earthquake was one of the biggest crises Pakistan has faced since its inception. In this gravest hour, Cuba sent doctors who treated thousands of Pakistanis, who had lost limbs in the devastation wreaked by this earthquake. Dr Sumaira Farman, Kamran Shafi and Aamir Ghauri recall those difficult times and how those Cuban doctors helped Pakistan in this discussion with Raza Rumi.

The Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade has been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. Please support them.


Here’s a great letter from a John Kirk, Professor of Latin American Studies in Canada:

Many will have first heard of the Henry Reeve Brigade (named after an American citizen who fought for Cuban independence in the 19th century) during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. Cuba was the first country to respond to a WHO appeal for support, and some 256 medical personnel, specialized in emergency medical services, participated (In all, some 5,000 Cubans volunteered their services). The goal of the Henry Reeve Brigade (with over 4,000 highly specialized medical personnel) is to send humanitarian missions anywhere in the world where there is a natural disaster or epidemic.

This medical brigade was initiated in October 2005, when more than 2,000 Cuban medical professionals tended to over 1.7 million people in the Kashmir region of Pakistan following a devastating earthquake that killed over 70,000 people. Unlike international NGOs that stayed just a short time, the Cubans remained in Pakistan for eight months. Moreover, after leaving they donated 32 field hospitals and provided medical scholarships for 1,000 Pakistanis to study medicine in Cuba at the Latin American Medical School (ELAM). The last of these doctors graduated seven years ago.

Since 2005 medical contingents of the Henry Reeve Brigade have participated in dozens of missions. In all, a total of 46 countries (as well as five territories in the Caribbean) have received medical care from some 9,000 Cuban medical professionals. In the past they have supported people affected by floods, earthquakes and hurricanes (dozens of missions dealing with natural disasters in Latin America, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean). In addition, they have sent medical staff to deal with the Ebola outbreak (mentioned above), and that of cholera in Haiti (2010, when they treated 400,000 patients). Their response to those in need has indeed been exceptional.

More recently Cuba has responded to requests from dozens of countries requesting Cuban medical support in the fight against COVID-19—and their response has indeed been exceptional. However, these most recent initiatives by no means represent an isolated response. Indeed, at the time of the outbreak of COVID-19 there were already 28,500 medical staff from Cuba working in 58 countries… The Cuban medical staff dealing with the COVID-19 crisis belong to 47 Henry Reeve contingents and have been sent to Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

The Cuban response to COVID-19 has been exceptional since the first brigade left four months ago. While several brigades have returned to Cuba after completing their medical commitments there, as of late August 2020 some 37 remain in 26 countries and five Caribbean territories. It is expected, as has been past practice, that they will remain as long as their services are required.

MAs can be seen, in the past 15 years the Henry Reeve Brigade has provided medical service around the globe, responding to requests for humanitarian assistance, regardless of political ideology. (Indeed, in September 2005 Cuba had offered to send 1,200 medical specialists to New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, an offer rejected by the Bush administration). Their work fighting in dozens of countries against COVID-19 is part of a decades-long process of solidarity, largely with impoverished countries in the Global South. While the most recent example of this outstanding contribution (3,700 medical personnel in 37 countries) to international health and development needs remains the response to COVID-19, the Henry Reeve Brigade has proven its commitment to supporting the

medical needs of those in need, wherever they are. Who else has made such a contribution to international health?F

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