“IN every Cuban health collaborator is the honor of a people who bravely resisted a genocidal blockade by the United States. In all Cubans, present are the words of Martí and the thinking of Fidel who taught us: All the world’s glory fits inside a kernel of corn. Our glory today is to serve the people of Guatemala and we will be there until the end.”
This what Cuba’s Ambassador in the Central American country, Carlos Céspedes Piedra, had to say on the Cubadebate website, referring to the self-sacrificing work of doctors aiding victims of the Volcán de Fuego’s eruption near the town of Escuintla, this past June 3.
Reading these words, recalling Fidel is obligatory, since he was the architect of this work, one of the most human undertaken by the Cuban Revolution, an expression of altruism, today in Guatemalan lands.
The volcano’s fury has not subsided, and the National Seismology Institute continues to report explosions by the hour. But neither has the work of Cuban medical brigades ceased in the most impacted area, where they conducted an active monitoring visit to the José Martí Official Mixed Federation School, serving as a shelter for those who lost their homes.
Relmar Quintana Martínez, coordinator of the group, told Prensa Latina, “We are checking everyone in order to have their condition stabilized, to act rapidly in the event of any emergency. Predominating in the population are children and the elderly, always the most vulnerable to respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections.”
The news agency verified that Cuban collaborators were on the scene from the first moments of the tragedy, working in 12 hour shifts, throughout the night when volunteer doctors depart and risks increase. The following day they continue their hospital work. It was also reported that Cuba has made available to the Guatemalan government all its medical brigades working without interruption in 16 of the nation’s 22 departments, as they have for the last two decades.
PL reported June 7 - according to an interview with the Guatemalan Health Minister, Ambassador Céspedes, and the coordinator of Cuba’s medical brigade, Yuri Batista - authorities were provided a complete list of available human resources, by specialty. Batista explained that a total of 431 healthcare professionals were working in 16 of the country’s 22 departments. Of these, 245 are doctors and 136 nurses. In particular, 39 are members of the Henry Reeve Brigade specialized in disasters, which was constituted September 19, 2005, on the initiative of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.
A majority of the collaborators currently in Guatemala have served on one or more previous medical missions, indicative of the group’s high qualifications, and are working in remote areas which never before had access to healthcare.
As soon as the number of injuries became known, the 26 collaborators assigned to Escuintla, one of the hardest hit areas, voluntarily offered their help at the shelters set up.
Fiama Roxana Dardoy, a Guatemalan social worker, told PL that the Cubans’ help has been critical at this time, when more than 200 families suddenly needed shelter.
“We are very grateful. They have been here all day and into the night, seeing children, women, the elderly, and always giving very humane, kind, and patient attention,” she said.
Yessenia Peralta, a volunteer firefighter, commented that the Cuban medical brigade has been attentive to controlling possible outbreaks of intestinal, respiratory, and skin illnesses.
These days take us back to the eternal presence of our Comandante en Jefe, when in 2005, the Henry Reeve Contingent was established, and he said, “Forward, generous defenders of health and life, victorious over pain and death!”
CUBAN MEDICAL COLLABORATION OVER 55 YEARS
- 407,000 professionals have participated in international missions
- 183,338 are doctors
- 1.688 million people treated
- 12 million surgeries performed
- 164 countries served
- 50,000 collaborators currently working abroad
- 64 nations currently served by Cuban doctors
- Cuban medical brigades have been present in the country for 20 years
- The first collaborators arrived November 5, 1998, to aid victims of Hurricane Mitch
- Present in remote areas
- Since 2006, Operation Miracle has helped 185,023 patients recover their eyesight
- 409,166 surgeries performed
- 43,749,222 medical consultations provided by Cuban doctors over the last 20 years
THE VOLCÁN DE FUEGO
- Its indigenous name: Chi’gag o Chakchiquel (in English: Where there is fire)
- More than 60 eruptions witnessed
- Last eruption: June 3, 2018
- Altitude: 3,763 metros
- Located 50 kilometers from the capital
- Currently erupting seven to nine times every hour
- Smoke plumes up to 4,800 meters tall