(Tomado de Cubadebate)
(English version at the end of the text)
Un artículo publicado por la revista Time reconoce que el internacionalismo médico cubano es una prioridad nacional en la isla y por eso Cuba está singularmente preparada para combatir la epidemia del virus del Ébola.
El artículo, que se difundió esta semana en el sitio digital de la influyente revista estadounidense bajo el título Why Cuba Is So Good at Fighting Ebola? (¿Por qué Cuba es tan buena en luchar contra el Ébola?), destaca el heroísmo de la Mayor de las Antillas, al convertirse en la primera nación que envió cientos de trabajadores de la salud a África Occidental. Subraya además que, a pesar de no ser un país rico, Cuba es una de las naciones más comprometidas, cuando se trata del trabajo de médicos en las zonas de crisis.
El artículo firmado por la periodista Alexandra Sifferlin, resalta que Cuba ha ofrecido médicos y enfermeros a África Occidental, y en la actualidad, 165 de ellos están allí, en coordinación con la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS). (*) Más de 50 mil trabajadores de la salud de Cuba laboran en 66 países de todo el mundo, destaca la revista Time.
Sifferlin también resalta el sistema de respuesta a las crisis mundiales instituido por el gobierno cubano a sus servicios de salud. “Cuando los médicos cubanos se gradúan, se les da la oportunidad de ser voluntarios para ser llamados para misiones médica, o catástrofes naturales”, señala la publicación estadounidense.
Time recuerda que más de 23 mil médicos de comunidades de bajos ingresos de 83 países (incluso de Estados Unidos) se han graduado de la Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM), que radica en la isla caribeña, y cerca de 10 mil están matriculados actualmente. La revista, que se edita en varios idiomas y que circula desde 1923, reconoce que Cuba, a través de sus prestaciones médicas por el mundo, gana prestigio por su buena voluntad y espíritu de cooperación.
Time destaca que el modelo cubano tiene un mensaje para la comunidad internacional, y es que se puede trabajar para mejorar la salud en cada país, y que la preparación constante es más sostenible que ser atrapado por una crisis.
(Información de Prensa Latina) Lea el artículo completo en inglés: Why Cuba Is So Good at Fighting Ebola?
*Nota de Cubadebate: En este momento laboran en África Occidental 256 médicos y enfermeros cubanos: 165 en Sierra Leona, 53 en Liberia y 38 en Guinea Conakry.
Why Cuba Is So Good at Fighting Ebola
It's the only country besides the U.S. to send substantial human resources to West Africa
As the first nation to dedicate hundreds of health care workers to West Africa, Cuba is an unlikely hero in the Ebola outbreak.
In spite of not being among the wealthiest countries, Cuba is one of the most committed when it comes to deploying doctors to crisis zones. It has offered more than 460 Cuban doctors and nurses to West Africa, and currently, 165 are working there under the direction of the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 50,000 health care workers from Cuba are working in 66 countries around the world.
“Cuba is world-famous for its ability to train outstanding doctors and nurses,” said WHO director Margaret Chan in a Sept. press conference announcing Cuba’s surge of health care workers. In the same meeting, Cuban Minister of Health Roberto Morales Ojeda called on all countries to “join the struggle against this disease.”
But why is Cuba so uniquely prepared to treat Ebola? It comes down to a national priority that even has its own name, coined by academics: “Cuban Medical Internationalism.”
Cuba’s global health crisis response system is a Doctors Without Borders-like program, but instituted by the government. When Cuban doctors graduate medical school, they are given the opportunity to volunteer to be called upon for medical missions, like an Ebola outbreak or a natural catastrophe. Often, these are one to two-year commitments. To prepare for something like Ebola, health care workers not only undergo aggressive training for the specific disease they are treating, but they also take courses on the region’s culture and history as well.
“This is something built into the psyche of Cuban doctors and nurses—the idea that ‘I am a public servant,'” says Gail Reed, co-founder of Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC). “It’s coming from a commitment to make health care a universally accepted right.”
It started around 1960, shortly after the Cuban Revolution. A massive earthquake killed up to 5,000 people in Chile, and Cuba sent health care workers into the disaster aftermath. A few years later, a medical team of more than 50 people went into war-torn Algeria. In 1998, two major hurricanes—Georges and Mitch—ravaged Latin America and the Caribbean. Once again, Cuba went in. Even during Hurricane Katrina, a team of Cuban doctors trained to go into the U.S., but President Bush said it wasn’t necessary.
In 1998, Cuban medical teams discovered that they were treating a lot people who had never before had access to doctors, and they decided that leaving the health care systems as they found them was irresponsible. So Cuba founded the Latin American Medical School(ELAM), which offers scholarships to low-income students from around the world with the expectation that they will graduate and return to their home countries as health workers.
“There are not many schools founded on the belief that poor people can become doctors and serve their community and be part of the solution,” says Reed. More than 23,000 physicians from low-income communities in 83 countries (even the U.S.) have graduated from ELAM, and nearly 10,000 are currently enrolled.
Not surprisingly, Cuba’s leadership in the current Ebola epidemic hasbecome political in the U.S.—Republicans are angry that a CDC worker recently went to Cuba for an Ebola meeting. And many argue that Cuba’s motivations aren’t purely altruistic. Some countries pay Cuba for their services, though price tags differ by country.
Others argue that Cuba’s deep reverence for solidarity among the marginalized is the real motivator and that working in countries that don’t provide adequate care to their own citizens is a political statement. Besides payment, Cuba also gains international goodwill and cooperation between countries. “The very fact that Cuba is the only other nation than the United States to contribute human resources to the Ebola crisis in a big way creates enormous international political capital, especially when most nations are unwilling to send their own people into the center of the calamity,” says Robert Huish, an assistant professor of international development studies at Dalhousie University in Canada.
On Oct. 17, Fidel Castro wrote an op-ed in the country’s state-run newspaper, arguing the U.S. and Cuba should work together on Ebola, if only for better coordination. “We will happily cooperate with U.S. personnel in this task, not in search of peace between these two states which have been adversaries for so many years, but rather, in any event, for World Peace, an objective which can and should be attempted,” Castro wrote.
At the very least, the Cuban model has a message for the international community: that local people can work for the greater health of their homelands, and that constant preparation is more sustainable than being caught off-guard. “Cuba’s lesson for us is that health, and global health in particular, needs to be addressed with pro-active, forward-looking commitment to strengthening health systems, not just by reacting to [disaster],” says Huish. Aid groups like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders have been calling for more physical boots on the ground, and so far Cuba has been the only country well poised to answer that call.
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