In the media briefing on Saturday we were told by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma that a team of Cuban doctors was on its way to our country, due to land here today. She declined to reply to a question as to how many medical professionals were due to arrive. A friend living in Havana sent me an article confirming this information, with the figure of 200 health professionals mentioned. Surprising was to read that our country sent a plane load of medical materials to Havana last week, including infra-red thermometers, gloves, masks, and hospital bed covers. The gift to Cuba was described as ‘… not a donation, but a modest gesture of brotherhood.…’!
The article on the news service Prensa Latina website states that Cuba’s action in sending the country’s doctors to South Africa is something which ‘Cuba does every day, sending doctors to save lives throughout the world’. The Cuban medical team will ‘include family physicians, epidemiologists, biologists, healthcare technology experts, engineering experts, biotechnology experts and other specialists’.
Following a request by President Cyril Ramaphosa to Cuba (and China) to assist our country with medical support, the Cuban government agreed, the Chief of the General Staff of the South African Armed Forces General Lindile Yam being quoted as having said that ‘Those Cuban doctors, who will soon be with us, will save the lives of many South Africans’.
The Cuban Ambassador Rodolfo Benítez Verson thanked our country for the gift to the Cuban people and government, ‘….a palpable demonstration of the special ties that unite Cuba and South Africa. As agreed between the two parties, the same aircraft that carries the donation to Cuba, will return this weekend to South Africa with a Medical Brigade of more than 200 health professionals, from the Henry Reeve Contingent. They will join the more than 200 doctors who currently provide medical services in this country’, implying that 200 Cuban doctors are already working in our country.
Cuba has sent over a thousand health professionals, all from the Henry Reeve Brigade, to nineteen countries in Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East, to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 Virus.
Last year the Intergovernmental Collaboration Agreement ‘in the field of health between South Africa and Cuba entered into force for five years. The understanding includes the hiring of Cuban doctors and university professors, the training of South African medical students in Cuba, and the study of mutual interests in field of scientific research. General bilateral cooperation, according to Benítez Verson, materializes in many fields, including health services, education, science and technology, agriculture infrastructure development, housing, water and sanitation, defense, human settlements, public works, sports, information and communication, technologies, among many others’, the article concludes.
When I visited Havana for a month last year, I met two local medical students who had studied in Havana as they could not get a study seat at one of our local universities, having just completed their studies and departing for South Africa the following day.
Scary is to see that two South African army persons were not wearing a mask and that there was no Social Distancing when the photograph was taken!
Note: I translated the Cuban article into English via Google Translate.
My friends in Havana write about the problems they face in coping with the Lockdown in their country:
# ‘We don’t have medicines, I have to bring the syringes everytime that I have a test, they don’t have needles and the sterile condition are not guaranteed.. My father had a heart attack and it’s getting almost impossible to get the medicine.. We’re not that fine, we should have closed sooner, but the thing is that our society is not prepared for a closure, we don’t have the means to survive at home for more than a week, we don’t have deliveries, but more important we don’t have the money to pay a big amount of food or the deliveries.. This is just starting to get worse.. Don’t believe everything you read… Our system is not that ok, our hospitals are a mess, and we should take the doctor to anywhere having this crisis here..‘ (25 April)
# ‘Here everything is the same, only the novelty that I can no longer go to the hostel because
the government removed all transportation so people don’t go out and just
those who are indispensable are working all the other people who
we live in this part of the city we cannot go to Havana.
It is not known until when we will be without transportation.
food situation is getting worse, there are already around 800 in the country
cases and 21 deceased, for where I live there have not been so many cases.(13 April)
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein