Cuba has sent around 1,200 healthcare workers largely to vulnerable African and Caribbean nations but also to rich European countries such as Italy that have been particularly hard hit by the novel coronavirus.
Cuba’s latest medical team has been to South Africa, the latest of more than 20 medical brigades it has sent worldwide to combat the coronavirus pandemic, in what some call socialist solidarity and others medical diplomacy.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has urged nations not to accept Cuba’s medical missions on charges it exploits its workers, which Havana denies.
But the calls have largely gone unheeded as overwhelmed healthcare systems have welcomed the help.
Cuba, which has confirmed,1400 cases of the virus at home and 55 deaths, has one of the world’s highest number of doctors per capita and is renowned for its focus on prevention, community-oriented primary healthcare, and preparedness to fight epidemics.
“The advantage of Cuba is that they are a community health model, one that we would like to use,” South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.
South Africa has recorded 4,500 cases, including 100 deaths, with over 170,000 people tested for the virus.
The country has a special relationship with Cuba, which supported the fight against apartheid, a conflict that included Cuban troops who fought and died in southern Angola. After Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990, he repeatedly thanked revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.
South Africa sent medical supplies to Cuba to assist in the fight against coronavirus in the plane that returned with the 216 Cuban medical brigade.