Helping women in Cuba during the COVID-19 outbreak
Updated 06:23, 17-Apr-2020

Editor's note: Margarita Salabarri, a gynecologist at the Cuban Medical Mission, spoke with CGTN's Luis Chirino about helping women in Cuba after she returned from her international medical mission in Bolivia, and this is what she has to say.

Cuba offers free and universal healthcare services to more than 11 million people on the island, while providing specialized medical assistance to other nations of the world through international medical missions, particularly those facing emergencies like COVID-19.

Cuba's health infrastructure, which has evolved over the past six decades to guarantee its people high-quality medical services, has earned important achievements like a low infant mortality rate, large number of doctors and the development of primary healthcare and preventive medicine.

Meanwhile, the island has for many years now trained medical students for work in other nations and offered specialized medical services for foreign patients in local hospitals.

"Cuba has always assisted any patient needing treatment here no matter what country they come from, because ours is a humane program open to all those who need our medical services," said Dr. Ileana Reyes, operations chief of the Medical Services Company.

Some 28,000 Cuban health specialists are currently working in more than 60 nations around the world, according to the Cuban Health Ministry. Some medical missions abroad are Cuban-sponsored, while others are funded by the countries receiving the services, which provide a financial contribution to the Cuban economy and its free public health system.

"We are all very eager to give our help and solidarity to other nations, so our joining of international missions is a voluntary action and so we also help our country improve its economy; for instance, the purchase of all this medical equipment here plus the hospital repairs are done thanks to our international missions," said Dr. Agustin Perez,  an ophthalmologist who was part of a medical brigade in Bolivia.

Over the past year and a half, the international Cuban medical programs have been terminated by several Latin American countries including Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia for allegedly supporting political opponents.

Shortly after the Cuban medical collaboration programs were closed in those nations, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo openly backed the decision in a TV appearance in which he said: "The Bolivian government announced Friday the expulsion of Cuban officials from that country. It was the right thing to do. Cuba wasn't sending doctors to Bolivia to help the Bolivian people, but rather to prop up a pro-Cuba regime headed by Evo Morales, who sought to maintain his grip on power through electoral fraud. Bolivia now joins Brazil and Ecuador in recognizing the Cuban threat to freedom."

Cuba has denounced the action. Last month, more than three dozen Cuban doctors and nurses traveled to Italy to help that country battle COVID-19.

"These doctors have fought Ebola in West Africa and some in other natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and we come to bring our solidarity for the human commitment that we keep with our profession and with our country and the world," noted Dr. Dr. Carlos Perez, Medical Brigade leader.

Cuba has thus far sent medical brigades to over a dozen nations in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, and for the first time to Europe, while more Cuban doctors and nurses are willing and ready to offer their modest contribution to other countries fighting COVID-19.

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