Cuban doctors deliver urgent healthcare to Haiti
In the grip of a rampant cholera epidemic and still reeling from the 2010 earthquake which claimed 316,000 lives, Haiti is a country in urgent need of a helping hand. Thankfully, a dedicated band of Cuban doctors – many specialising in eyecare – are up to
Still reeling from the 2010 earthquake, Haiti is a country in urgent need of a helping hand. Thankfully, dedicated Cuban doctors are up to the task and have so far saved over 300,000 lives.
It's Saturday, and the entrance hall of a police station in front of the busy market in Salomon in the Haitian capital has become an improvised health post. In a few minutes there is a long queue of people waiting to be seen by the Cuban medical brigade.
The police officer on duty said he was not authorised to speak to journalists, but the extent of police co-operation is obvious. The police stations' tables and chairs are quickly lined up along the entrance hall to facilitate the work of La Renaissance hospital workers, who carry out preventive health work here once a week.
"We are a mobile clinic," said Damarys Vila, the head of La Renaissance hospital, which is staffed by the Cuban medical mission. "We check for high blood pressure, cataracts, pterygium (a benign tumour of the conjunctiva) and glaucoma," she said. " We send people with these conditions to the hospital." Women are the majority of those waiting in line. "Women have the highest rate of high blood pressure because they bear the greatest burden of labour. Then there are dietary factors, like eating too much hot, spicy food, refined flour and salt," she said.
"Many people have their blood pressure taken here for the first time in their lives," Vila said.
On a tour of this unusual health post, where in a single morning 167 poor women and men receive attention, expressions of gratitude abound. "We seek out the Cuban doctors because they treat people well and they don't charge. We are poor, we cannot afford to pay," said a resident of Port-auPrince before she raised the heavy load she was carrying on to her head. The first Cuban medical brigade to Haiti arrived on December 4, 1998, bringing relief in the aftermath of hurricane Georges. Since then co-operation has been uninterrupted and has had a decisive effect in this impoverished country, which in 2010 suffered an earthquake that killed 316,000 people, according to government figures, along with an ongoing cholera epidemic that has also claimed thousands of lives.
During this period Cuban medical personnel have seen 18 million patients, carried out 300,000 operations, saved 300,000 lives and restored eyesight to 53,000 people. According to reports, there are 640 health professionals in including 357 women.
The international healthcare aid to Haiti stands out not only due to its scope - it reaches the entire country - and its humanitarian impact, but also because it is preparing the country for the future by putting in place a public health system, including the reconstruction of hospital infrastructure.
Financial contributions towards these efforts come from Cuba, and also from Australia, Germany, Namibia, Norway, South Africa, Venezuela, and to a lesser extent from other countries. The Cuban programme involves remodelling and building 30 community hospitals to act as reference centres, more than half of which have already been completed. Some 39 Haitian health ministry units are to be fitted out as healthcare centres, with or without beds, as well as 30 comprehensive rehabilitation wards. official Cuban Haiti,