“The response from the two neighbours to the coronavirus pandemic are in stark contrast to one another. At a time when Cuba sends healthcare workers to some of the worlds worst affected areas, Trump insists on pursuing a policy of blame & division.”Ryan Smith, Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
By Ryan Smith, Cuba Solidarity Campaign
An international campaign has been launched asking the Nobel Committee to award Cuba’s International Medical Brigades a Nobel Peace Prize. The campaign has gained international support by prominent politicians, musicians and writers including former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, Noam Chomsky and actor Mark Ruffalo.
If the Henry Reeve Brigade, as they are known, were to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, it would not only recognise the current altruism shown by Cuba during the global pandemic, but it would also highlight and educate the world of the inspirational acts of internationalism that have been part of Cuba’s history since the Revolution in 1959.
The Henry Reeve Brigade itself is formed of voluntary healthcare workers who provide urgent relief to countries that are affected by natural disasters. Created in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the brigade has saved more than 80,000 lives. During the Ebola outbreak in West-Africa, the brigade sent over 400 healthcare workers earning them the prestigious Dr. Lee Jong-Wook Memorial Prize for Public Health in 2017.
What truly highlighted the severity of the coronavirus pandemic was when, in March, the first batch of 51 Cuban doctors and nurses arrived in Lombardy, Italy, at the time the epicentre of the pandemic, to cheering crowds. This was the first time Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade had operated in Europe. The Secretary of Health and Welfare of the government of the Lombardy region, Giulio Gallera, has since attended a homage rally to thank the Cuban doctors for their heroic work.
The award would also go some way in thwarting attempts from the United States to discourage nations from accepting medical assistance. President Trump’s administration has been actively spreading false and inaccurate information about Cuba’s medical internationalism, and even pressing governments to expel active missions.
The response from the two neighbours to the coronavirus pandemic are in stark contrast to one another. At a time when the small island nation sends healthcare workers to some of the worlds worst affected areas, the Trump administration insists on pursuing a policy of blame and division, even threatening to withdraw the US from the World Health Organisation (WHO), claiming that they are under the control of China.
The world has much to learn from Cuba’s response to the pandemic, especially as we approach issues such as the climate crisis. What has become evidently clear as we continue to battle against coronavirus is that the health and safety of the public must come first. Cuba’s rapid “prevention and control” plan, enabled the island to combat the virus head on with a community orientated health system and clear advice limiting, COVID related deaths to 95. Working together, collectively, to overcome these global challenges is essential. Genuine solidarity and internationalism must be embraced and recognised.
Cuba’s altruistic response to the coronavirus pandemic has also rejuvenated international campaigns calling for an end to the US blockade of Cuba that has been in place for the last 58 years. In the UK, Labour MP Grahame Morris, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cuba said, “The Cuban government altruistically gave an offer of safe haven to passengers of the stricken British cruise ship MS Braemar, allowing it to dock in Havana when many other countries had refused.”
Other MPs including Navendu Mishra, Rachel Hopkins and Kenny MacAskill are just a few of the politicians backing the Nobel Peace Prize for Cuban Doctors. They are joined by academics, trade unionists, actors and musicians as well as thousands of people across the UK and beyond.
Internationalism and solidarity are key to defeating the coronavirus pandemic and as Noam Chomsky has said, Cuba has been the “only country to have shown genuine internationalism during coronavirus crisis.”
- Sign the open letter supporting the call for the Nobel Peace prize to be awarded to the Cuban medical brigades at https://cuba-solidarity.org.uk/nobel-peace-prize/
- EVENT: Fighting blockades & COVID-19: Why US sanctions in Latin America must end. Saturday 3 October, 2.30pm with H.E. Bárbara Elena Montalvo Álvarez, Cuban Ambassador, Sofia Clark, Master of International Law, National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, Adan Chavez Frias, Former Venezuelan Education Minister. Chair: Christine Blower, Labour member of the House of Lords. Register here