Over 200 doctors from Cuba arrived in South Africa yesterday, to assist the country in its efforts to contain the COVID-19 spread. With a total of 4,793 cases, South Africa is one of the worst affected countries on the continent.
Following a request by the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, the government of Cuba sent 217 doctors, including “family physicians, epidemiologists, biostatists, healthcare technology engineers, biotechnology experts, among other specialists… carefully selected so as to ensure great experience and knowledge in the planning, execution and management of clinical cases as well as the public health response.”
Following a quarantine period of two-weeks, these doctors “will be deployed to different provinces of the country, in accordance with the strategic plans elaborated by the Department of Health,” the embassy added.
Cuba has one of the strongest healthcare systems in the world, evident as they have one of the world’s highest ratios of the number of doctors in a country to its population. Since the beginning of the global pandemic, the communist state has already sent over 1,200 doctors to 22 countries, including 250 to Angola earlier this month.
“These are medical internationalists whose record in public healthcare far surpasses all other nations in the world,” said Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health.
South African health minister, Zweli Mkhize, praised the medical internationalism of Cuba, whose doctors have also been on “the frontline of fighting other outbreaks in the world such as cholera in Haiti in 2010, and Ebola in West Africa in 2013.”
The doctors landed in South Africa at the Watrekloof Air Force base in the capital city, Pretoria, on April 27, celebrated across the country as Freedom Day, commemorating the first election held in the country in 1994 after the defeat of the apartheid regime.
The arrival of Cuban doctors in South Africa’s hour of need is of historical significance. Under the leadership of Fidel Castro, the Cuban government played a crucial role in assisting the Nelson Mandela-led African National Congress’ (ANC’s) struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
“Since the agreement reached by the late Presidents Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, we (have) relied on Cuban medical support, hence we are sending hundreds of South African students for training in Cuba,” Dr. Dhlomo remarked.