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  • Groups of Cuban doctors arriving on a mission in Sierra Leone in 2015

    Groups of Cuban doctors arriving on a mission in Sierra Leone in 2015 | Photo: Reuters

On World Health Day, teleSUR looks at some great examples of Cuban medical internationalism and solidarity.

Cuba is known as renowned for having one of the world’s best health systems, high-quality doctors and training and prevention programs.

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Medical programs initiated by the Cuban government have also been beneficial for countless others outside of the island, from disaster relief to disease prevention, as part of the country’s ongoing medical internationalism.

Despite being crippled by decades of U.S. economic sanctions, Cuba has sent thousands of medical professionals to foreign countries and has helped to train more than 80,000 doctors across the world for free.

Helping with Natural Disasters in Latin America

Cuba has sent a team of doctors and health professionals to assist Peru with the floods which have killed at least 94 people and displaced at least 700,00 people. Within days of landing, the Cuban team has treated more than 1,000 affected people.

Medical teams have also been sent to help relief efforts following Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, and a team of doctors were sent to Ecuador in 2016, after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 600 people.

Solidarity with Peace in Colombia

Cuba has already been a key player in the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, hosting a number of key dialogues between the parties.

As part of Cuba’s ongoing solidarity with Colombia toward the peace process, in March Cuba offered 1,000 medical scholarships to Colombia over the next five years, allowing medical study in Cuba, which otherwise is prohibitively expensive for the majority of Colombians. Of the 1,000 scholarships, half will be given to former FARC rebels and half to the Colombian government.

Supporting Standing Rock Protestors

Outside of Latin America, the influence of Cuba’s renounced Latin American School of Medicine, or ELAM, can be seen the U.S. and in the occupied struggle of Native Americans and environmentalists against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

A group of U.S.-based medical professionals who were trained through the ELAM, traveled to the Standing Rock Reservation to assist “water protectors” who were subjected not only to safety threats by law enforcement and security as well as harsh weather conditions.

The group who traveled to assist said that their Cuban training has not only given them “an unwavering commitment to internationalism”, but “the moral commitment to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable communities here at home in the U.S.”

Fighting Ebola in Africa

When the deadly Ebola virus began to spread through Africa in 2014, Cuba was the first country to provide assistance. Doctors and nurses from Cuba were sent to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Equipped with the knowledge of how to respond and prevent Ebola, Cuban teams also helped to train 13,000 Africans, 66,000 Latin Americans, and 620 Caribbeans to deal with outbreaks. In 2015, a team of the doctors working in West Africa was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Helping the Poor and Vulnerable Across the World

Aggressive U.S. policy against Cuba has not dimmed the socialist country's commitment to poor communities around the world.

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Cuban health experts have been working with specialists in Chicago to help cooperate on health projects from cancer detection and prevention to maternal and childcare for some of the city’s poorest communities.

Brazil, a country known for huge levels of inequality, has also benefited from Cuban programs. As part of the Mas Medicos programs, Cuban medical professionals have worked in Brazil’s isolated areas and poor slums and work in more than 70 percent of Brazil’s cities.

Last year, Bolivia’s Health Ministry said that Cuban doctors have saved 86,983 lives and performed 179,282 surgeries in the country since 2006.

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