Humanity’s mission: Cuba’s medical internationalism in Haiti

Public lecture on Cuba’s Medical Assistance to Haiti

by Dr. Jorge Tomas Balseiro Estevez, Member of Cuba’s Medical Mission to Haiti

7 p.m., Wednesday, October 19

Room 303, Dalhousie Student Union Building, Dalhousie University, 6136 University Avenue, Halifax

A free event sponsored by the Canadian Network On Cuba (CNC),  Nova Scotia Cuba Association (NSCUBA) and the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG).

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Cuban Doctor on Canada Wide Tour to Speak on Cuba’s Humanitarian Medical Mission

FROM October 13 to November 6, 2011 Dr. Jorge Tomas Balseiro Estevez, a member of Cuba’s medical internationalist mission to Haiti, will speak in more than a dozen cities from Halifax to Victoria.

Dr. Balseiro exemplifies Cuba’s extensive and unprecedented solidarity with the peoples of the world, illustrating what can be achieved when self-serving interests do not direct the aid provided.

Dr. Balseiro has extensive experience in Cuba’s many medical internationalist missions across the globe. From 1988-89, he worked as Director of the Cuban civilian Hospital in the Republic of Angola. In 2004-2006 he worked as a clinical psychiatrist in the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation of the Republic of Guyana.

In 2008 as a member of the Henry Reeve Brigade in Haiti, he was director of the Hospital de Campana de Leogane. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, Dr. Balseiro worked extensively with Cuban technical and medical personnel giving emergency aid. They were soon joined by the arrival of a group of more than 50 Latin American doctors, trained at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba.   Dr. Balseiro also participated in rescue missions of hurricanes Ike and Paloma in his own country in 2008.

Dr. Balseiro was Provincial Director of Public Health of the Province of Camaguey, Cuba from 2000 to 2003. Currently, he is the Director of the University Psychiatric Hospital of Camaguey. Dr. Balseiro has authored numerous articles on mental health issues that have appeared in a variety Cuban and international magazines.  He trained internationally in Hungary, Mexico, Guyana and in Cuba in different topics of mental health and mental health and disasters.

Dr. Balseiro is 55 years old and speaks Spanish and English.

The tour is organized by the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC).

CNC spokesperson Isaac Saney says Dr. Balseiro’s work and service illustrate Cuba’s collective commitment to building and strengthening genuine ties of friendship and solidarity among the world’s peoples, of which Cuba’s medical mission in Haiti is distinctive

“Cuba’s medical internationalist mission in Haiti is a profound challenge to those who argue that relations among the world’s nations and peoples are – and can only be – determined by self-interest, the pursuit of power and wealth,” Saney points out. “Cuba provides the example that it is possible to build relations based on genuine solidarity and social justice: demonstrating the positive alternatives which permit people to realize their deepest aspirations, and that another better world is possible,” he said.

For information contact: isaney@hotmail.com; cell: 902-449-4967

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Backgrounder: Cuba in Haiti

At the time of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, 402 Cuban internationalists, 302 of them medical personnel, had already been helping the Haitian people.

“The Cubans did not wait for the earth tremor to offer their help. They were already working along with us long before,” former Haitian President René Préval said.

Cuba’s cooperation with Haiti began in 1998, after Hurricane George hit Haiti. It has amplified since the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people, wounded more than 300,000 and displaced more than 500,000.

Since the earthquake, Cuban cooperation has grown to 1,304 persons, with 679 Cubans, and 625 graduates and students from 26 other countries, trained and educated free of cost at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine.

Cuban doctors immediately responded to the cholera epidemic following the earthquake, saving thousands of Haitians. The cholera lethality rate in Haiti is 2.07 per cent, whereas for the sick people assisted by the Cuban Medical Brigade is 0.48 per cent.

The Haitian President declared that the people of Haiti view the Cuban physicians as extremely important, “second only to God.”

The Cuban medical mission has treated more than 300,000 patients, performing more than 8,000 surgeries. Cuban assistance encompasses more than just the provision of immediate medical attention. It is now also focused on strengthening and rebuilding the Haitian healthcare system. Toward those ends, the Cuban medical and paramedical internationalists work in 56 hospitals and healthcare centres, and have installed and equipped 30 rooms, in which more than 85,000 patients have been treated.

Immediately following the earthquake in Haiti, the Canadian Network on Cuba initiated a fundraising campaign – Cuba for Haiti – to donate to Cuba’s efforts in medical support to Haiti. To date the campaign chaired by Professor Keith Ellis has raised and sent to Cuba, over $295,000.00.

The head of the Cuban Cooperation Brigade in Haiti, Lorenzo Somarraba, stated that there are currently 1,300 Cuban health workers in that nation including 312 doctors, out of which 247 graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) who come from 20 different countries.

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