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Vol. 81/No. 16      April 24 2017


Cuba Sends Doctors to Aid Peru Flood Victims

Now for sure! The Cuban doctors have arrived. Let everyone know,” Enmanuel Vigil Fonseca overheard one of the victims of catastrophic floods in Peru say, when he arrived as part of a 23-member brigade of Cuban internationalist doctors in the city of Piura, 620 miles north of the country’s capital. “Then, as if by magic, a line that seemed endless was formed.”

The doctors and specialists are members of the Henry Reeve International Contingent, created in 2005 by late President Fidel Castro to offer aid after disasters and during serious epidemics around the world. Since it was created brigades of the contingent have been deployed 22 times to 20 countries — including twice to Haiti and Chile, and to West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic — providing medical assistance to some 3.5 million people.

Cuba’s “army of white coats,” as its internationalist doctors have become known around the world, have won a reputation for their deep sense of solidarity that flows from the moral values promoted by Cuban workers and farmers through their socialist revolution.

The doctors and epidemiologists set up a field camp they brought from Cuba as soon as they arrived in Piura April 1 and began treating patients. They came with backpacks full of medicine and enough material — 4.2 tons — to treat 20,000 people in a month, along with 6 million tablets to purify 80 million liters of water.

Since the beginning of the year Peru has been battered by torrential rains caused by the El Niño weather pattern. But the flash floods and landslides that have left more than 94 dead, an estimated 700,000 persons homeless, and led to a major risk of epidemic outbreaks, are not caused by the natural disaster. They stem from the lack of adequate housing, basic infrastructure, and medical care for working people.

“Little by little we’re beginning to win the fight against diseases. We’re ready for battle, our morale is high and we’re at full throttle,” said Vigil Fonseca in a message published in the Cuban press.

This is not the first time the revolutionary government of Cuba has sent volunteer doctors and other medical aid to Peru as an elementary act of working-class internationalism, without regard to the political character of the existing Peruvian governments.

In 1970, following a devastating earthquake on the Peruvian coast, Cuba sent a medical brigade, and 100,000 volunteers, including President Fidel Castro, donated blood. Again in 2007, Cuban doctors were dispatched to Peru following another earthquake.
Related articles:
Chicago event raises funds for May Day brigade to Cuba
US, Canadian socialists, Cuban youth discuss US class struggle
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