How did Cuba emerge as a medical superpower – Story of medical internationalism

Image source: The Conversation

Amid the destruction and trouble the pandemic is causing, super-power economies dying and medical infrastructure of countries collapsing, a small Caribbean country, Cuba emerged as a medical superpower for the whole world, and significantly Asia. In spite of various sanctions imposed by the U.S., Cuba has emerged as a superpower in the world’s fight against Covid-19. Not only during Covid-19, but Cuba helped Asia after its worst natural disasters including the 2004 tsunami, 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, Japan and in Indonesia. As Covid-19 spread across the world the global public has been astonished to see Cuban doctors and medical teams that came to assist China and Italy. How did Cuba grow to heights of medical prowess?

Though, this is not the first time Cuba took over the world using its medical hegemony. In 2014, when Ebola outbreak was majorly spread across Africa, the WHO called for “Compassionate doctors and nurses who will know how to comfort patients despite the barriers of wearing PPE and working under very dramatic conditions. Cuba was the first to respond to this message by sending a large contingent of medical personnel.

Since the late 90’s Cuba has been honing its medical edge and has helped several countries in keeping at bay, worst-case health scenarios. Cuba during the pandemic stands out as a leading example of solidarity and guiding light for advanced medical economies. Since the pandemic, several numbers of doctors and medical workers have been sent to around 20 countries, including China and Italy. Deeply owing to its excellent Physician to Patient ratio, at 8.2:1000, the country has been able to contribute significantly in the globe’s fight against the pandemic, yet Cuba is working strongly towards making the ration better through the coming days.

Image source: Reuters

In the initial days of Covid-19 outbreak, the island’s prowess came in the spotlight, firstly because the Chinese National Health Commission listed the Cuban anti-viral drug Interferon alfa-2b amongst various recommended treatments for the disease. But a big blow came when the government of The U.S. tweeted a sceptical message that undermined the solidarity of the country’s efforts. Reaping the benefits of socialist state investments in health, Cuba’s medical exports have emerged as an extra-territorial 60 year U.S. blockade that prevents the country from transactions in normal international trade, which was a big blow away for the country, since several allies of the U.S. cancelled its deals with Cuba, owing to Washington’s pressure. Biotechnology is the prime reason for the country’s top position in medical terms. Many biotechnology MOU’s have been signed between Cuba and Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. 

Since the Covid-19 outbreak first emerged, Cuban medical personnel have been sought by various countries across the globe. But, many the people of the world convey their grief on improper reporting of Cuba’s aid through the world. Cuba’s aid to the world is often hidden by mainstream Western media though the country was the first one to step up and provide a critical hand to several countries in several incidences. Though Cuba has received various awards and recognitions for its quality work, none of those compensates for the poverty and food crisis in the country. Yet, the efforts could help the country reap its long term benefits, especially after Covid-19 where many countries would understand the importance of tapping a deal with Cuba.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Shanmugapriya Balasubramanian

Shanmugapriya Balasubramanian is a Former Journalism Intern at The Kootneeti's Asia Desk

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