Cuban Doctors Show the Best of Humanity during this Terrible Health Crisis

By Maribel Acosta Damas on March 22, 2021

British MP Richard Burgon and British academic Helen Colley are among the 42 UK personalities — including 14 academics and 28 members of the British Parliament — who have made formal nominations for Cuba’s Henry Reeve Medical Contingent to receive the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.  In a broad display of support, numerous voices have been raised in favor of the recognition of Cuban doctors and the Cuban health system.  Through the Internet and with the collaboration of Rob Miller, an important Cuba solidarity activist in that country, we were able to learn about their motivations, which are part of the global campaign that defends what many have called justice for those who for decades have demonstrated the value of generosity.

When Richard Burgon nominated the Cuban doctors, he said: “Cuba has a long history of humanitarian assistance, even in times of struggle.  The organization’s guiding principles of health as a human right, the right to peace and life, humanism, and solidarity have underpinned the Henry Reeve Brigade’s monumental efforts.  During a time of the present global health crisis, these are exactly the principles we all must embody.  The Henry Reeve Brigade has made a contribution in the absence of a global health model, and it has never received as much recognition and praise as at this time of a global health emergency.”

Richard Burgon’s link with Cuba goes back a long way.  He said: “Many years ago before I became a member of the British Parliament, I was fortunate enough to go to Cuba.  I visited the island five times and made many friends there.  I cycled around different parts of the island and once completed the Cuba Solidarity Campaign Cycling Challenge, cycling around the island, a wonderful experience.  As a young man, I became Secretary of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in Leeds, my hometown in the UK, and worked on many solidarity initiatives in support of Cuba and the achievements of their Revolution.  I read a lot about their history and their Revolution, including in the field of health.  I met Cuban doctors and other health personnel; I learned more about health care in Cuba and about internationalist Cuban health projects around the world.”

MAD-. Do you have any direct ties to Cuban medicine?

RB-. I have been fortunate to spend time with Cuban doctors and Latin American medical students who went to Cuba to study to be doctors.  I’ve visited the Latin American School of Medicine, the William Soler Children’s Hospital in Havana and the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital in Havana.  I also met a Cuban ophthalmologist who worked abroad in “Operation Miracle,” restoring eyesight to people from different countries.

MAD-. As an MP, what is your opinion about the large number of British parliamentarians who nominated Cuban doctors for the Nobel Peace Prize?

RB-. The impressive number of UK Members of Parliament who have nominated Cuban doctors for the Nobel Peace Prize is testimony to the widespread recognition of the internationalism and humanism of Cuba and its doctors.  There really is a lot of admiration for all that Cuba has achieved and contributed in this field.

MAD-. What importance do you see in this award for Cuban physicians in the midst of the pandemic?

RB-. It is the recognition of the fact that during this terrible health crisis, we have seen the best of humanity and the international work of Cuban doctors exemplifies this.  And it is a challenge to other much richer countries to follow the same internationalist humanitarian spirit.  José Martí said that “Homeland is humanity” and Cuban doctors have put that principle into practice.  We should work for a world in which richer countries also put those principles into practice so that working together, we can consign war, poverty, grotesque inequality and unnecessary and preventable death and disease to the history books.

Helen Colley, an academic, Professor of Continuing Education at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Professor of Adult Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto, also nominated the Cuban doctors to receive the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.  Addressing the Norwegian committee, she said that the Henry Reeve Contingent “deserves the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its selfless and inspiring work.  The extraordinary success of Cuban medicine and the international solidarity of its health workers, demonstrate that another world is possible, where people’s lives come before profit.”

MAD-. How did you learn about the work of Cuban doctors?

HC-. I have been interested in Cuba for many years and heard about the Nobel Peace Prize call through the work of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.  Hearing about their work after the Kashmir earthquake and the Ebola crisis in West Africa, I am not surprised that Cuban doctors are once again at the forefront of the global battle against COVID-19.  I have visited Cuba and have been involved in solidarity with its people for many years.

MAD-. Based on your academic work, how do you evaluate Cuba’s efforts in education, health, culture, and science?

HC-. The most impressive thing about Cuba is the simplicity with which it faces social life, the way it approaches problems and solutions.  This is because Cuba puts people’s needs at the center of its services rather than profit.  It does what it can, to the best of its ability and with the resources available.  Clearly, the results in education and health are really impressive, but what inspires me most is the universality and equity of its systems, which is very different from my country and the experience of the people here, where most experience discrimination and exclusion based on gender, race and above all wealth.  I believe that the most important thing for Cuba today would be the end of the U.S. blockade and that the Cuban people be allowed to develop their own society as they wish, without the constant aggression and intervention of forces within the United States.

Source and translation: Resumen Latinoamericano – Cuba