HAVANA, Cuba — Cuba manages to shine as a glowing example of the effectiveness of foreign aid as the world continues to combat the ongoing global pandemic. It ranked number one on the World Bank’s physicians per 1000 people charts in 2017 with 8.1. Cuba’s response to COVID-19 involves sending more and more Cuban medical professionals abroad each week to those countries that need it most. Cuba’s quick, internationally-minded answer to the pandemic embodies its history of providing medical aid abroad. It exemplifies how foreign aid can mean a world of difference in the face of crisis.
Cuba’s “Medical Internationalism”
Cuba is no stranger to providing foreign medical aid during times of crisis. The country implements a focus on “medical internationalism” in its medical education system. The term references Cuba’s dedication to helping countries that are vulnerable or in need across the globe. Outbreaks of disease, natural disasters and other crises regularly draw Cuban medical aid across international borders. Reportedly, these efforts helped approximately 3.5 million people spanning 21 countries between 2005-2017. Notably, Cuba dispatched medical professionals to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, to West Africa amid the ebola outbreak in 2014 and even offered health personnel as aid to the U.S. in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Cuba’s response to COVID-19 represents yet another installment of its quick and internationally-minded practice in foreign medical aid. In recent weeks, Cuba sent more than 593 medical workers to help combat coronavirus in 14 countries. The destinations of these workers included Italy’s heavily affected Lombardy region, Nicaragua and numerous islands in the Caribbean that lack a sufficient number of medical professionals in the face of the pandemic. Cuba sends its aid not only to the front lines in Italy where the spread of the virus is highly concentrated but also to some of the world’s most vulnerable nations, showcasing its dedication to helping countries in need.
On the Medical Forefront
Besides aid in the form of dispatched medical personnel, Cuba’s response to COVID-19 includes a significant contribution from its laboratories. In the 1980s, Cuba developed the antiviral drug Interferon, which is used to treat cancer, hepatitis and viral complications with HIV. Medical professionals of many countries, including China and Spain, are currently using the Cuban drug experimentally to treat people who have contracted COVID-19.
These tests of Interferon’s application show mixed results, but many of the cases show noticeable improvements in the symptoms of treated patients. Currently, the World Health Organization lists the medicine as one of the main drugs with which it will experiment in the fight against Covid-19 moving forward. Countries such as Italy and Mexico expressed an interest in acquiring the medication. Furthermore, factories in China have already begun to manufacture the antiviral.
Cuba’s position at the forefront of medical research accents its global efforts on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic. Cuba’s response to COVID-19 demonstrates its astounding capability to extend its hand to the world’s vulnerable during times of crisis and uncertainty.
– James Ring