The volunteers are part of Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics, organized in 2005 to offer aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States. Washington refused the offer.
The brigade, named for a U.S. doctor who joined Cubans in their 19th century war of independence, has grown since, carrying out missions in other parts of the world, including aiding victims of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. The contingent became known worldwide after sending 256 volunteers last year to join the fight against Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Conakry.
The Cuban internationalists will set up a field hospital in Kirtipur, just outside Kathmandu, one of the hardest-hit areas. The team includes 10 nurses, 25 doctors and paramedics and support and administrative personnel.
At a send-off in Havana, Marcia Cobas, vice minister of Public Health in Cuba, said she was proud that the volunteers and equipment were ready 24 hours after the decision to offer the aid was made.
“It’s an honor to continue the course of the contingent and to have been chosen for this task,” volunteer José Antonio González, a specialist in wartime intensive care, told Cuba’s Granma newspaper.
“This isn’t for money, if I’m a doctor then I should go to do good wherever,” Norbery Jorge Rodríguez de la Paz, one of seven Cuban volunteers who are going on their first internationalist mission, told Granma. For 20 of the volunteers this is their second mission abroad; 22 have been part of several brigades.
This is the first ever Cuban medical mission to Nepal, bringing to 25 the number of Asian countries that have received revolutionary Cuba’s medical assistance.
At least 7,675 people in Nepal died from the earthquake and more than 16,000 are injured. The social disaster was magnified by a legacy of imperialist underdevelopment and exploitation in what is one of the poorest countries in the world. Before the quake, there were only 50 hospital beds per 10,000 inhabitants and 30 percent of the hospitals were damaged or destroyed.
“I was very happy to hear that our Cuban friends are coming,” Surendra Raj Gosai, president of the Cuba Solidarity Committee of Nepal, said by phone from Kathmandu May 11. Gosai’s home was destroyed in the earthquake and like tens of thousands of others he is living in a tent.
“Aid is arriving, but the victims are still not getting it,” Gosai said. “The aid is not being properly managed by the government and the international and nongovernmental organizations also have their own interests.”
The situation is getting worse, he said. “We had many aftershocks and that has been followed by heavy rain. And soon the monsoon season is starting.” With the rain there is greater danger of epidemics. That’s one reason why the people of Nepal appreciate the solidarity from Cuba.
“We know that Cuba has experience in disaster management and they are renowned throughout the world,” Gosai said.
Abelardo Cueto, Cuba’s ambassador to India and Nepal, told TeleSur that “Cuba travels the world as a sister and will help our Nepalese brothers and sisters.”
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‘Cuba has the right to choose its own destiny’
Gerardo Hernández of Cuban Five speaks at international solidarity conference with Cuba
Participation in Cuban Revolution transformed women
End US embargo of Cuba!
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