The Militant reprints below remarks by Abelardo Moreno, Cuba’s vice minister of Foreign Relations, at a Sept. 18 emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The week before, the Cuban government announced it was sending 165 volunteer doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone to combat Ebola. That is more than any other country in the world and will double the number of foreign health care workers directly treating victims of the deadly disease.
The Cuban volunteers are part of the Henry Reeve International Contingent, formed in Cuba in September 2005 by 1,586 doctors and other health care workers who volunteered to travel to Louisiana to provide needed medical care immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit the area. The U.S. government never responded to the offer. The contingent is named after Brooklyn-born Reeve, who was a combatant in Cuba’s war of independence against Spain that began in 1868.
At the Security Council meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the formation of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response. The meeting heard reports from Dr. David Nabarro, Senior U.N. System Coordinator for Ebola; Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization; and Jackson K.P. Niamah of the France-based Doctors Without Borders, via video-conference from Monrovia, Liberia. Samantha Powers, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., is chair of the Security Council in September.
Ban told the council that a 20-fold increase in assistance is needed to combat the disease. The translation of Moreno’s remarks is by the Militant.
Allow me firstly, to thank the Secretary-General, Dr. Nabarro, Dr. Chan and Mr. Niamah for the information they have provided, I can assure you that it is extremely useful and necessary to us.
The seriousness of the situation created by the Ebola epidemic plaguing some West and Central African countries creates the need to confront it energetically and with the cooperation of all countries.
In this spirit, Cuba — in response to the request made by U.N. Secretary-General, the honorable Ban Ki-moon and Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan — has already begun the process of cooperation under the coordination of WHO, as Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda from the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Cuba announced last Friday.
This cooperation will enable a medical brigade, whose participants have expressed their willingness to join the fight against this epidemic, to be sent to Sierra Leone. All have more than 15 years of professional experience and have worked in other countries, confronting natural and epidemiological disasters, as well as on collaborative medical missions.
We are prepared to work closely with other countries, including those with which we do not have diplomatic relations.
Cuba’s response is part of our solidarity with Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the last 55 years we have collaborated in more than 158 countries, with the participation of 325,710 health workers. There are 76,744 collaborators who have worked in 39 African countries. Today, in this sector, 4,048 Cubans, 2,269 of whom are doctors, are serving in 32 African nations.
In addition, Cuba, a small and poor country, has to date trained 38,940 doctors from 121 countries free of charge. Ten thousand foreign students are currently studying medicine on our island, 6,000 of whom study completely free of charge, under the principle of continuing to help the poorest, while those with resources pay their own expenses, which helps ensure the sustainability of the Cuban health care system and international collaboration.
In this battle against Ebola, which must involve everyone, the Cuban government decided to maintain and extend its cooperation to the countries most affected, who have already been informed.
In the rest of the region unaffected by Ebola and where we have, as I have already said, more than 4,000 health workers, we are ready to assist in the prevention of this disease.
The medical brigades going to Africa to fight against Ebola form part of the “Henry Reeve International Contingent” — created in 2005 — composed of medical personnel trained in combating disasters and large-scale epidemics.
Cuba’s response confirms the values of solidarity that guide the Cuban Revolution: not to give what is left over, but to share what we have.
Africa is hoping for an immediate response from all U.N. member states, and in particular from those with resources. Joining this global effort against Ebola is an urgent necessity. Humanity owes a debt to the people of Africa. We cannot let them down.
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