March 9, 2011

Life and health for a sister people

Text and photos: Juan Diego Nusa Peñalver, Special correspondent

WHILE it appears that Haiti is no longer news for some international forces who have withdrawn from the country, the Cuban Medical Brigade reaffirmed its commitment to life and heath for this sister Caribbean country, during the presentation of its annual report March 5-6, in Port-au-Prince.

Dr. Lorenzo Somarriba, head of the Cuban medical mission here, offered a broad overview of the year's work, marked by the two catastrophes suffered by this nation: the emergency produced by the devastating earthquake of January 2010, which in a matter of minutes killed 300,000 people and destroyed the limited infrastructure existent within the country and the terrible cholera epidemic which is a long way from being defeated, despite initial inroads.

The report provoked serious discussion of measures to strengthen the Haitian public health system, primary care in particular, through the Cuban-Venezuelan project and the tripartite agreement with Brazil and other nations in this sector, and how to eliminate cholera and avoid its further spread.

Noteworthy within this effort is the completion of 10 community reference hospitals, financed with funds from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), two health centers and a storage facility for medication and equipment, staffed by the Cuban Brigade, which is already responsible for 69 Cuban-Venezuelan project centers and has personnel serving within 87 Haitian Ministry of Health and Population facilities.

Amidst difficult conditions the Cuban internationalists have, during the past year, carried out more than 1.7 million consultations (22.4% in the field), performed 37,846 surgeries and attended 10,170 births.

It is impressive that the Cuban Brigade has treated 30% of all cholera victims in Haiti, and only mourned 6% of total deaths in the country due to the disease, which speaks for its commitment to the struggle for Haitian lives.

The working strategy to eradicate this disease was delineated very clearly, how to provide services in cholera units and centers with the minimum staff strictly necessary, thus freeing Brigade members to address other medical needs.

The World and Pan-American Health Organizations and UNESCO's food program were thanked for their timely support.

Within this context, much serious discussion took place about the need to conserve resources, to provide directors with better economic training, to carefully manage equipment and promote its rational use, giving priority to clinical diagnoses.

The comments made by Dr. Alina Cárdenas, head of the Party's work group, and Ricardo García, Cuba's ambassador in Haiti, and others, devoted special attention to the preparation of those to come, looking to preserve and improve all that has been done by Cuban medicine during its 12-year presence in Haiti.

On this front, the results are clear and allow for well-founded confidence in the future.

The meeting concluded with good news: the election of Dr. Alina Cárdenas, as a delegate to the 6th Party Congress and on March 5, for the second consecutive day since the beginning of the epidemic more than four months ago, fewer than 100 cases of cholera were reported within the regions being served by the Cuban Medical Brigade.

Translated by Granma International

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