The first group of the Cuban Medical Brigade arrived in Belize yesterday via the Philip Goldson International Airport. Our news team was on hand upon their arrival just before six o’clock. In yesterday’s group there were 32 members of the “Henry Reeve” International Contingent of Cuban Health Professionals with another 26 arriving today at the Philip Goldson International Airport. Belize is not the only country receiving this type of assistance however, as contingents have been deployed to other countries such as Cuba. We asked one of the doctors, Roger Luis Ramirez Escobar, how they were able to deploy so many health professionals when they themselves are faced with almost 50 cases of COVID-19. According to him, it is a long-standing tradition that Cuba will always assist countries that are in need.
Dr.Roger Ramirez Escobar: “Our country Cuba is in the first stage of facing the pandemic so we are at the first stage. The case that we have are basically imported, people that have been travelling, foreigners, and so there are few cases in Cuba. We’re following the protocol for the stage one basically that’s what we’re doing in Cuba. This has been a characteristic of the Cuban Revolution to help other countries or nations to try to face different kinds of difficulties in terms of healthcare. The principles that we have followed in Cuba to train doctors is that first we need to give solidarity to others, it can be either in Cuba but also to outside so that in this specific moment when a lot of countries are facing that threat and then we have been requested to just support them that’s why we are giving that support to different countries. Our program is to train and prepare doctors in Cuba is so wide that we can have our own doctors in Cuba giving us the program but at the same time just to help others.”
Minister of Health, Pablo Marin told us where these doctors will be stationed and what the future plans will be. He also pointed out that this move by the Cubans is a testament to the relationship between Cuba and Belize.
Pablo Marin, Minister of Health: “We want to have them in Belize City and for the isolation ICU unit in KHMH I think that is where we need it most. Around the country like I spoke to the ambassador from Cuba we also have brigades here that are working for us. We already know the listing and which specialty they have and they will be able to be deployed anywhere else in the country that we need them. It feels a relief for all of us, for us to be able to count on Cuba. It’s about two to three weeks ago that I spoke to the ambassador on what we wanted, immediately she sent that request to Cuba and I really need to give thanks to the President Miguel Diaz-Canel because of their constant collaboration with us. It is something that we have been working with them for nearly thirty eight years, the Cubans are willing to come and support us and if you can see, and I need to say even though they have an embargo right now they are willing to help not only Belize the entire world; you can see from everywhere they are going with no regard of leaving their houses, their family members behind and I wish that our Belizean people can look at this, see how people that are not Belizeans putting their heart and love for the different countries that need it.”
Ambassador Annie Lou Burns Martinez, the CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also spoke on the strong diplomatic ties the two countries have. She mentioned as well that it is a two-way street, and that Belize helps in any way that it can.
Annie Lou Burns Martinez, CEO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “I must mention it’s twenty five years of formal diplomatic relations between us but we have many more years, thirty eight in fact, of a history of Cuban medical professionals lending a hand to Belize in goodwill. You saw them come off the plane just now, they were calm, they understand what to do, they are specialists in this area and have experience with Ebola and other epidemics, this is now a pandemic but it’s a good message to us in Belize; Be calm, practice good hygiene, wash your hands above all, try to keep the spacing that is hard for us it’s a challenge but we all need to do it and I think we all need to understand one of the lessons I learned as Ambassador to Cuba I’m now here as CEO for Foreign Affairs was that together we can do it. What we try to do also from Belize is so that it’s not only one way and so I must mention that there was a very kind group of business people headed by Mr.Dinesh Bhojwani who in a matter of hours secured assistance in the form of donations of sheets, and towels and soap and other things to go to Cuba so that it wasn’t one way. So we know that there is an economic blockade in Cuba, we know that it is difficult so it would not have been right for Belize to ask for equipment but what they offer is expertise, what they offer is human capacity. These people are helping us and never forget that they’ve left their families as Minister said, their young ones at a time where everything is uncertain but they’ve come here calmly, they’ve come here smiling and they’ve come here willingly.”
The doctors will be in Belize for three months, but Minister Marin stated that the time can be extended if necessary.