The health ministers of Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil gathered in Port-au-Prince over the weekend to announce signing of a cooperation agreement to rebuild the Haitian public health system. Joining the ministers at the Cuban field hospital in Croix des Bouquets March 27th were over 400 Cuban health professionals, graduates from dozens of nations trained at Havana’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM), and members of the Cuban and Brazilian diplomatic corps in
The Brazilian government pledged $US80 million to help reconstruct the health system, including the establishment of a national epidemiologic surveillance network, to be staffed by Cuban, Haitian and Latin American health professionals trained in Cuba.
Haitian Health Minister Alex Larsen underscored the importance of multilateral cooperation for improving population health in his country. “This accord compliments the trilateral pact signed between Haiti, Cuba, and Venezuela, putting us on the right track to rebuild our public health system.” Minister Larsen also expressed his gratitude for the Cuban doctors who were in Haiti when the earthquake struck on January 12th. They “responded immediately, offering medical services and attending our dead. I truly don’t know how to thank the Cuban medical team for their extraordinary work during those days,” he said
Speaking briefly, ELAM graduate Dr Wilsos Canton highlighted the fact that Cubans were among the first responders on January 12, adding that Cuban doctors have been offering health services in Haiti continually since 1999. He said the ELAM graduates intend to complement this commitment into the future, as “we, the doctors trained at ELAM, don’t consider health care a business, but a right.”
Dr Alberto Campos, a Brazilian ELAM graduate and dermatology resident serving in Haiti, emphasized the comprehensive, integrated care offered by the Cuban-led teams. “We’ve provided and will continue to provide not only health services, but also infectious disease control, vaccines, and physical and mental rehabilitation services,” he said to the gathering.
Cuban Health Minister Dr José Ramón Balaguer spoke to both the importance of early disaster response and the philosophy of medical solidarity. The Henry Reeve Emergency Medical Contingent, now completing its 10th post-disaster mission, is mobilized in 24 hours said the Cuban minister, providing the medical attention that is the right of all men and women of the world, particularly in disaster’s wake. “What would the world look like if all men and women lent their skills and solidarity like those of Henry Reeve? It would be a world full of peace, of love – a different world.”
On that note, the pulsing strains of the drums and trumpets of the Martha Machado Artists Brigade began drifting over the assembled, led by Cuban painter Kcho who presented Minister Balaguer with an original painting commemorating the Cuban mission in Haiti.