Cuba celebrates this Saturday the 15 years of its International Contingent of Specialized Doctors in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics Henry Reeve, which currently supports the fight against the coronavirus with 43 brigades in 33 countries.
“Happy day to the more than 9,000 health professionals of the Henry Reeve Contingent who have been facing and overcoming pain and death in the world for 15 years. Thank you for your generosity and example. Thank you for giving life,” wrote on Twitter the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel.
This group of “internationalist doctors” was created by the late former president Fidel Castro on September 19, 2005 to help the state of New Orleans (USA) after the devastating passage of Hurricane Katrina, but Washington rejected the aid.
Its mission is to bring “humanitarian-medical-health aid to populations victims of natural disasters and epidemics in other countries, and to help their recovery”, says the state newspaper Granma, which dedicates its front page and inside pages to highlighting the work of doctors Cubans.
Participation is voluntary and generally its members are professionals with experience in medical missions abroad, who must always be ready to travel immediately.
Cubans have helped during the floods in Guatemala and the earthquake in Pakistan, both in 2005, and also in the 2010 Haiti cholera crisis.
About five years ago, members of the contingent helped control the Ebola epidemic in Africa, and their work was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) with an award in 2017.
Originally founded to aid New Orleans, Castro thought of the name Henry Reeve for the brigade as a tribute to the ties between the two nations, staunch enemies for more than half a century.
Henry Reeve (Brooklyn, 1850 – Sancti Spiritus, 1876) was an American brigadier-drummer in the Union Army during the American Civil War who enlisted as a volunteer in the Cuban Liberation Army in the first war of independence against Spain.
Reeve served for seven years alongside the Mambises and until his death at age 26, he had participated in more than 400 matches. “The Englishman”, as the insurgents nicknamed her, earned the respect of Cubans for her courage. He even fought tied to his horse when wounds on his legs prevented him from riding.
COVID-19 AND CONTROVERSY
During the pandemic, some 3,800 Cuban Henry Reeve toilets have traveled to 39 nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East, including Qatar, Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Haiti, Jamaica and South Africa.
They also traveled to Europe for the first time, where island doctors provided assistance in Andorra and Italy.
According to updated official data, the contingent has served more than 550,900 people. Of the 52 brigades to fight COVID-19, 43 continue to provide health services in 33 nations.
In these fifteen years, the total number of people assisted by Cubans amounts to about 4 million.
Recently, several solidarity organizations with Cuba abroad have asked that the Henry Reeve contingent be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for being an example of “altruism, solidarity and humanism.”
According to Havana, a total of more than 400,000 Cuban specialists had provided services in 164 nations by the end of 2019. There are currently about 37,000 health professionals in 67 countries.
The medical missions have recently become a battlefront between Cuba and the United States, which accuses the island of withholding most of the salary of medical personnel while exposing them to “atrocious working conditions.”
Cuba, for its part, dismisses these accusations as “lies” and an “immoral campaign” and has asked to put aside “pettiness and hostility” in the midst of the pandemic.
(c) EFE Agency