Cuba as­sists Mon­go­lia’s ef­forts to com­bat di­a­betes

The UB Post - - Front Page - By B.DULGUUN

Since last year, Cuba has been work­ing closely with the Mon­go­lian gov­ern­ment to de­velop the lo­cal phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor. The UB Post sat down with Cuban Am­bas­sador in Mon­go­lia Raul Del­gado Con­cep­cion to get bet­ter in­sight into this project while delv­ing into the two coun­try’s bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion.

Can you tell us what the Cuban Em­bassy is cur­rently do­ing in terms of de­vel­op­ing the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions?

First of all, I’d like to thank the UB Post for com­ing to the em­bassy to­day for this in­ter­view. The UB Post is one of the best me­dia, news­pa­per in the Mon­go­lian so­ci­ety be­cause it’s very real, prag­matic, and has good analy­ses.

Sec­ondly, Cuba and Mon­go­lia started their diplo­matic re­la­tions in De­cem­ber 7, 1960. The 60th an­niver­sary of our re­la­tions will be in 2020. It’s go­ing to be a big num­ber. From that mo­ment un­til now, both coun­tries have achieved a great friend­ship, very close peo­ple-to-peo­ple re­la­tion, and many col­lab­o­ra­tion in the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic ar­eas.

Our job here as an em­bassy is to main­tain, en­hance, and re­in­force that re­la­tions and that’s ex­actly what we’re do­ing. We’re do­ing many things to tighten the re­la­tions of the two coun­tries.

I no­ticed that Cuba has been more fo­cused on the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal co­op­er­a­tion. Can you give an up­date on this?

Yes, this is one of the ar­eas that we’ve been work­ing on for the last two years. Cuba is con­sid­ered by many coun­tries de­vel­oped in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try, one of the first fifth coun­tries spe­cial­ized in biotech­ni­cal pro­duc­tion and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts. Say­ing that, I can tell you that around 80 per­cent of our con­sump­tion of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal pro­duc­tion is pro­duced in Cuba. We’re lead­ing the re­search and in­ves­ti­ga­tion of many vac­cines and medicines against hepati­tis, which we have been able to elim­i­nate in Cuba. Our main goal is to bring these good prod­ucts here to Mon­go­lia.

We have been work­ing very close with the Min­istry of Health and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies in Mon­go­lia, and so far, we have al­ready reg­is­tered a few prod­ucts that in the fu­ture, will be very use­ful to pa­tients here. For ex­am­ple, the three main causes of death in Mon­go­lia are can­cer, di­a­betes and coronary dis­eases. We have been bring­ing our prod­ucts and tech­nol­ogy here from Cuba to re­solve these prob­lems. We have reg­is­tered a Cuban prod­uct called He­ber­prot-P, which is in­jected as a treat­ment for di­a­betic foot ul­cers.

Di­a­betic pa­tients suf­fer from ul­cers in the feet and usu­ally it is ended with the am­pu­ta­tion of the foot. We have been work­ing very hard to teach and pre­pare doc­tors in Mon­go­lia to use this prod­uct and cure pa­tients suf­fer­ing from di­a­bet­ics foot ul­cers. In Mon­go­lia, there have been in­creased cases of di­a­betes be­cause of the change in peo­ple’s eat­ing habit in the last 30 or so years. The peo­ple have been get­ting more di­a­betic prob­lems such as di­a­betic foot ul­cers.

He­ber­prot-P is very ef­fec­tive and we hope that it will con­trib­ute to re­duc­ing cases of am­pu­ta­tion in Mon­go­lia. Also, we have vac­cines for lung can­cer, hepati­tis and more. Hepati­tis is al­ready erad­i­cated in Cuba, which shows that our prod­ucts are very good. We’ve been work­ing on these things and we hope to do more.

Are you fac­ing any prob­lems when im­port­ing medicines from Cuba to Mon­go­lia?

We’re fac­ing the nor­mal bu­reau­cratic process and let’s say, prob­lems we face in any coun­try. The re­al­ity is that the med­i­cal sec­tor in Mon­go­lia has been very warm and ac­knowl­edg­ing about Cuban prod­ucts used as medicine. In that sense, we haven’t had any prob­lem with the med­i­cal sec­tor. The prob­lems we have are the same as those we face in any other coun­try. It’s a nor­mal prob­lem.

Isn’t it more costly to bring prod­ucts from Cuba, es­pe­cially in con­sid­er­a­tion of the dis­tance be­tween the two coun­tries?

It’s a very good ques­tion. We have re­la­tions with med­i­cal sec­tors of more than 97 coun­tries. He­ber­prot-P, for

ex­am­ple, has been reg­is­tered in more than 51 coun­tries. We have been sell­ing this and other prod­ucts in many coun­tries around the world. Right now, we have med­i­cal teams work­ing in 66 coun­tries. More than 40,000 peo­ple from the Cuban med­i­cal sec­tor are work­ing abroad. More than 22,000 peo­ple are work­ing as doc­tors and physi­cians in other coun­tries. We have co­op­er­a­tion with neigh­bors – like Mon­go­lia, China, Laos, Ar­gentina, Iran, Tur­key and Qatar. So, we have been able to de­velop our med­i­cal co­op­er­a­tion in many places re­gard­less of the dis­tance. It’s the same with Mon­go­lia.

Mon­go­lia is a very old friend of Cuba. Mon­go­lia has been sup­port­ing Cuba in the strug­gle against the US block­ade and in the UN vot­ing at the Gen­eral As­sem­bly, it sup­ports the so­lu­tion Cuba presents against that cruel and in­jus­tice pol­icy of the USA against Cuba ev­ery year for more than 59 years. Say­ing that, we have been very grate­ful to bring our prod­ucts here de­spite that block­ade and very happy to co­op­er­ate and help make the health and life of Mon­go­lians bet­ter.

Back to the ques­tion, the dis­tance is not a prob­lem.

How much is Cuba in­vest­ing in this project?

Cuba ded­i­cates more than 51 per­cent of our na­tional bud­get on two things – ed­u­ca­tion and health. You can imag­ine how much we have been in­vest­ing in these sec­tors over the years. The his­tory of the biotech­nol­ogy in­dus­try in Cuba started in 1980. We were at­tacked by a long epi­demic of dengue, trans­mit­ted by a mos­quito bite. It was killing al­most 102 chil­dren that year in Cuba. Back then, Cuba started work­ing to cre­ate its own phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try to com­bat dis­eases like dengue.

In 1983, for the first time, we started pro­duc­ing in­ter­feron. Cuba was one of the first four coun­tries in the world that pro­duced in­ter­feron by tech­nol­ogy meth­ods. The USA, France, Nor­way and Cuba were the first four coun­tries.

In 1983, we de­vel­oped our in­dus­try in a very small house to com­bat that dis­ease. In around 1989, the gov­ern­ment in­vested more than one bil­lion USD to cre­ate the biotech­no­log­i­cal in­dus­try. Right now, it’s a huge in­dus­try named, BIOCUBAFARMA com­posed of 38 big com­pa­nies in Cuba, and we pro­duce many phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts.

What else are you do­ing to sup­port the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal de­vel­op­ment of Mon­go­lia?

A Mon­go­lian del­e­ga­tion from the Na­tional Univer­sity of Mon­go­lia is cur­rently at­tend­ing the In­ter­na­tional Congress “Con­trol­ling di­a­betes and its most se­vere com­pli­ca­tions” (the congress took place in Cuba from De­cem­ber 10 to 14). They are go­ing to sign a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with the Cen­ter for Ge­netic En­gi­neer­ing and Biotech­nol­ogy of Cuba. This is very im­por­tant.

Mon­go­lians and Cubans have dif­fer­ent phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics. Have these Cuban prod­ucts been tested on Mon­go­lians?

Yes, they have been tested and ap­proved by the Reg­is­tra­tion Of­fice of Mon­go­lia and the Min­is­ter of Health. We have never tried to in­tro­duce things that haven’t been ap­proved by au­thor­i­ties of the coun­try.

What are the ex­pected re­sults of in­tro­duc­ing Cuban medicines in Mon­go­lia?

It’s very dif­fi­cult to make such es­ti­ma­tion. Di­a­betes is a silent killer. The prob­lem is that the low knowl­edge of Mon­go­lians, as well as other peo­ple, about di­a­betes. The main com­pli­ca­tion is the dis­eases di­a­betes can bring, not the dis­ease it­self. Usu­ally, di­a­betes is as­so­ci­ated with coronary dis­eases and liver dis­eases. There are many pa­tients with di­a­betes who don’t know that they have di­a­betes. The thing is that if you can con­trol di­a­betes, you can avoid many causes of other dis­eases. Many di­a­betic pa­tients don’t know their con­di­tion, caus­ing them to strug­gle with high sugar lev­els and other prob­lems.

With He­ber­prot-P, we have been able to con­trol one of the com­pli­ca­tion of di­a­betic pa­tients, which is the di­a­betic foot ul­cers. Be­cause of the high level of sugar in the blood of di­a­betic peo­ple, when they are wounded and it isn’t healed, it leads to foot ul­cers. At the end, doc­tors have no other choice but to am­pu­tate the foot. This prod­uct can help avoid many am­pu­ta­tions and loss of abil­ity to work.

You men­tioned that Cuba is heav­ily fo­cused on ed­u­ca­tion. What is the em­bassy do­ing to sup­port ed­u­ca­tion in Mon­go­lia?

We have been able to ed­u­cate more than 67,000 peo­ple as doc­tors and spe­cial­ists for the med­i­cal sec­tor.

Right now, we have more than 19,000 for­eign­ers study­ing medicine in Cuba for free as part of co­op­er­a­tion with other coun­tries. We have 17 Mon­go­lians study­ing medicine in Cuba as part of our bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion. We usu­ally of­fer schol­ar­ships to three Mon­go­lian med­i­cal stu­dents. So far, 168 Mon­go­lians have grad­u­ated in Cuba, mainly ma­jor­ing in phar­ma­col­ogy den­tistry, en­gi­neer­ing, and vet­eri­nary among many other ma­jors.

Grad­u­ates have come back to Mon­go­lia and are work­ing very suc­cess­fully. Lately, Mon­go­lians have been tak­ing more schol­ar­ships to study medicine.

What are the re­quire­ments for the stu­dents?

This is some­thing you have to ask the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion. Be­cause it’s an in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal agree­ment, we give the schol­ar­ship to the min­istry, they take ex­ams from the stu­dents and select the stu­dents to go to Cuba

through the schol­ar­ship. The min­istry or­ga­nizes ev­ery­thing for the se­lec­tion of the stu­dents.

Which ar­eas will you fo­cus on next?

We’re also work­ing in sports. The Cuban min­is­ter of sports vis­ited Mon­go­lia this year and had very good meet­ings with Mon­go­lian sports agen­cies. He vis­ited many sports com­plexes here to try to re­in­force the three spe­cial­ties of Mon­go­lia -- wrestling, judo and box­ing – with Cuban coaches and pre­pare ath­letes for the up­com­ing Olympics.

An agree­ment was made to set Mon­go­lia as a train­ing base for Cuban na­tional wrestling, judo and box­ing teams be­fore the Olympics in Ja­pan to train with the Mon­go­lian teams.

We’ve been do­ing cul­tural col­lab­o­ra­tion too. We’ve brought Cuban dancers. The Cuban Na­tional Bal­let danced here in Mon­go­lia last year and Mon­go­lia’s fa­mous bal­let dancer Al­tankhuyag par­tic­i­pated in the In­ter­na­tional Bal­let Fes­ti­val of Ha­vana, one of the most fa­mous bal­let fes­ti­vals in the world, in 2016 and this year. He was the first Mon­go­lian bal­let dancer to par­tic­i­pate in that. Like so, we’ve been do­ing many cul­tural things.

How many Cubans come to Mon­go­lia a year? How is the tourism co­op­er­a­tion of Mon­go­lia and Cuba?

We have been try­ing to co­op­er­ate in tourism with Mon­go­lia, not by bring­ing Cubans here but by try­ing to de­velop the tourism in­dus­try.

From our point of view, this is one of our ways to di­ver­sify the Mon­go­lian econ­omy. Mon­go­lia has beau­ti­ful land­scapes and beau­ti­ful places to visit just like Cuba. We have dif­fer­ent weather and are very far from each other, but we’re blessed with land­scape and places to visit. Mon­go­lia has a warm cul­ture and good and hos­pitable peo­ple like in Cuba. We have many sim­i­lar­i­ties. There­fore, we’ve been try­ing to cre­ate a real co­op­er­a­tion in tourism with Mon­go­lia by try­ing to train peo­ple and de­velop sim­i­lar things.

Since we’re very far, we’re not fo­cused on bring­ing Cubans here or hav­ing Mon­go­lians travel to Cuba. How­ever, we want to pass our tourism knowl­edge to Mon­go­lia so that it can de­velop a pow­er­ful in­dus­try like ours. Tourism moves all of the other in­dus­tries and the whole coun­try. From beds to build­ing to wa­ter to en­ergy, tourism needs ev­ery­thing. It’s also clean and doesn’t dam­age the en­vi­ron­ment.

The 60th an­niver­sary of the Mon­go­lian and Cuban diplo­matic re­la­tions is ap­proach­ing. Have you started pre­par­ing for it?

Yes, we will start of­fi­cially pre­par­ing in 2019. It’s a big num­ber – 60 years of re­la­tions is a long time. We will do ev­ery­thing we’re plan­ning now like cul­tural events and food fes­ti­vals to re­mind our ties. We will have re­cep­tions for the cel­e­bra­tion. We’re al­ready pre­par­ing for it.

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