Cuba has a history of sending medical teams to nations in crisis

As the world fights to stop COVID-19 claiming more lives, Cuba has dispatched 593 medical workers to 14 countries in their battles against the pandemic, its ministry of public health told Al Jazeera.

One of the first Cuban medical teams was sent to Italy on March 21 at the request of Lombardy, its worst-hit region.

According to Dr Jorge Delgado Bustillo, director of the Central Unit of Cooperation at the ministry, which is responsible for running the foreign missions, the other 13 countries are: Andorra, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Surinam, Jamaica, Haiti, Belice, Dominica, and the island nations of Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, St Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda.

Dozens of other countries across the world have also sent requests for medical help from Cuba, which the health ministry is currently reviewing and will respond to based on its capacities, Dr Bustillo said in an email to Al Jazeera.

“#Cuba has extended a hand many times, but never so many times in such a short time. In the past week, a Henry Reeve brigade has departed with each sunrise. There are already 11 in total. There is no precedent,” Jose Angel Portal Miranda, Cuba’s health minister, tweeted on March 28.

Since then, three more medical missions have been sent. According to a statement on the Cuban health ministry’s website, 179 doctors, 399 nurses and 15 health technologists have been dispatched as part of this initiative.

These medical workers belong to the Henry Reeve Emergency Medical Contingent, named after a US-born general who fought in the First Cuban War of Independence in the 19th century.

It was created in 2005 by the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro and specialises in rapid medical response to natural disasters and outbreaks.

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