Cuba to Send 100 Doctors to Kenya

Source:  The Star, Kenya / TeleSUR
March 18 2018

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks on direct engagement among African-Caribbean and Pacific countries during his state visit to Cuba, March 16, 2018. /PSCU

Kenya has announced that they will bring 100 Cuban medical specialists to fill gaps in county hospitals after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta ended a short visit to the Caribbean island.

One of President Kenyatta’s “Big Four Agenda” objectives is to implement universal health care for Kenyans, and that’s why medical assistance was one of their main discussion points during their visit to Havana.

Read: Kenya, Cuba bank on historical ties for stronger health, tourism sectors

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said Kenya had struck an agreement to bring in 100 medical specialists – with each county getting at least two – and that 50 doctors will be sent to Cuba for specialised training.


Kenya will also work with Cuba on collaborative research projects, develop training for primary healthcare workers and collaborate to build capacity to undertake genetic engineering and biotech work.

What we discovered is that Cubans are very concerned and very dedicated to research and have a very strong research department and they have had many firsts, they have eliminated malaria from the face of Cuba all together,” said Mohamed Ali, the governor of Marsabit, who also visited the island along with Kenyatta.

Ali also said they would bring livestock vaccines from Cuba to help Kenyan pastoralists without damaging the environment.

“Timelines are as soon as possible,” said Aman, who was part of the delegation that accompanied Uhuru to the Caribbean nation globally known for its leadership in primary healthcare.

Cuban doctors will need to be cleared by the Kenya Medical and Dentists Practitioners Board but Governors Anyang Nyong’o of Kisumu and Mohamed Ali of Marsabit, who were also in the delegation and back the deal, said they expected no problems.

Nyong’o had been to Cuba twice before when he served as minister in the Grand Coalition Government. He had been been party to health cooperation agreements that were never implemented.

The Governor said he wants swift implementation of the plan because health is at the epicentre of a growing Kenya.

The President ordered Aman to remain in Cuba until he delivers an agreement with extensive detail on cooperation with Cuba.

 Essentially, the agreement will cover a raft of critical areas. These include the secondment by the Cuban government of doctors to Kenya to fill crucial gaps in county hospitals and that of technical experts to operate equipment.

It also covers participation in research and advanced trials of medicines in areas in which Kenya is vulnerable. This will be through the use of therapeutic anti-HIV and anti-prostate cancer vaccines; vaccines to control influenza and meningitis; and control of diabetic foot ulcer amputation.

It will also cover the vector control in the fight against malaria.

Kenya will also look to Cuba for vaccines against ticks, guaranteeing healthy animals and cleaner environment due to a reduction of chemicals used in tackling ticks at the moment.

The sum total of these agreements is that Cuban experts will come to Kenya within the next few weeks and roll out a range of medical interventions that will radically change how we manage a large number of life-threatening diseases.

Related: Mobile app, study tours to combat crop-munching armyworm in Africa

If the recent political handshake had the potential to change political discourse, the agreement with Cuba will be of seismic proportions when it comes to the management of Kenya’s healthcare systems.

The key approach for the Cubans concerns preventive measures so the country stops the spread of disease before the economy is drained.

Collaboration with Cuba is likely to become a major strategy in how Kenya deals with the preventive options in disease management. The main goal is saving billions of shillings that go to global pharmaceutical majors each year for treatment, at the cost of growing the economy and delivering shared prosperity to all.

Read:  Kenya: Protesters Demand US Ambassador Step Down

Over 80 Countries to Attend Health Conference and Fair in Cuba

Source:  Cuba Inside the World / Prensa Latina

March 14 2018

Experts from 83 countries will participate in the International Conference Cuba Salud 2018, to be held from April 23rd to 27th at the Havana”s Conference Center, said organizers today.
The event, which will also be attended by 44 ministers of this field, is outlined as a forum for scientific discussion to exhibit progress and challenges in issues such as quality of care, international cooperation, medical training and comprehensive health care.

It will also discuss the current public policies, strategies, organization and the economic bases on which health actions are based and the need to improve the population’s health as a key role for social development.

President of the scientific commission Pastor Castel said in a press conference that the countries with highest amount of representatives are Cuba, Brazil, Colombia and the United States.

Panels, round tables, lectures and the launching of a new edition of the Pan American Journal of Public Health dedicated to Cuban achievements are included in the event’s agenda.

For his part Cristian Morales, representative of WHO/PAHO in Cuba, said that during the event, the Week for Vaccination in the Americas will take place, seeking to wipe out the gap amid regional programs.

South Africa: EFF Asks ‘Fighters’ to Remove All Listeriosis-Linked Products From Shelves

March 4 2018

Officials have said the outbreak was linked to contaminated sausage and warned South Africans not to consume “ready to eat” processed meat. The UN said the listeria outbreak is believed to be the largest-ever worldwide.

listeriosis outbreak.jpg

South Africa’s Health Ministry said on Sunday that a listeriosis outbreak has killed 180 people in the country since the beginning of 2017.

Officials also announced that the outbreak was tied to a sausage-type meat that is made by South Africa’s largest consumer foods group.

The meat, known as “Polony,” is produced by Tiger Brands, a unit of Enterprise Food, and by RCL Foods, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

“We can now conclude scientifically that the source of the present outbreak is the Enterprise Food production facility located in Polokwane,” Motsoaledi said.

He added that “Polony” would be recalled from stores and advised South Africans “to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat.”

Although RCL Foods had not yet been identified as a source of the contaminated meat, one of its factories was also under investigation.

Massive outbreakListeriosis is an infection which is most frequently caused by the bacteria listeria which is found in water, soil, vegetation and animal feces.

The bacteria can contaminate food — particularly dairy products, fresh meat and seafood — but can be prevented by washing food and basic hygiene.

Listeriosis results in flu-like symptoms as well as nausea, diarrhea, and infection of the bloodstream. In severe cases, it can lead to an infection of the brain. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are at a heightened risk.

South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said there have been 948 cases of listeriosis since January 1, 2017.

The outbreak is believed to be one of the largest-ever worldwide, according to the United Nations.


A Poor Neighborhood In Chicago Looks To Cuba To Fight Infant Mortality

Source:  The Washington Post
January 10 2018

chicago looks to Cuba.jpg(Leah Binkovitz)

By Miles Bryan, WBEZ

Over the past few months, medical professionals on Chicago’s South Side have been trying a new tactic to bring down the area’s infant mortality rate: find women of childbearing age and ask them about everything.

Really, everything.

“In the last 12 months, have you had any problems with any bug infestations, rodents or mold?” Dr. Kathy Tossas-Milligan, an epidemiologist, asked Yolanda Flowers during a recent visit to her home, in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. “Have you ever had teeth removed or crowned because of a cavity?”

Though they seem to have little to do with motherhood, these questions are borrowed from the playbook of the Chicagoans’ new mentors — doctors from the Cuban Ministry of Public Health. As Tossas-Milligan administered her survey, two Cuban doctors sat nearby, observing.

Role model for American health care

Cuba, a poor country where many of the cars on the road are half a century old, may seem an unlikely role model for American health care. But its infant mortality rate, at 4.3 per 1,000 (now 4.1), is lower than the United States’ 5.7 per 1,000, according to the World Health Organization’s 2015 data. And Cuba’s rate is much better than the infant mortality rates in some of the poorest parts of the U.S. In the Englewood neighborhood, for instance, 14.5 babies per 1,000 do not reach their 1st birthday. That’s a rate comparable to war-torn Syria.

“Cuba is not a rich country,” said Dr. Jose Armando Arronte-Villamarin, one of the Cuban doctors. “[So] we have to develop the human resources, at the primary health care level.”

Now University of Illinois at Chicago health workers are bringing Cuban-style surveys and home visits to Englewood.

“Sometimes the answers are in the most unexpected places,” Tossas-Milligan said. “Sometimes it’s hard for us to face the reality that, as much as we spend, we have somehow not been successful at keeping our babies alive.”

The home visits came out of a partnership between the Cuban Ministry of Public Health and the University of Illinois Cancer Center. Three Cuban doctors and a nurse embedded in Chicago from August to December, joining their American counterparts in visiting the homes of 50 women of reproductive age in Englewood.

In exchange for a $50 stipend, the women answer dozens of questions, on topics ranging from the state of their home to their emotional well-being.

The project is funded by a $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which has also paid for some American health care workers to visit Cuba.

Classifying women into four risk groups

n Chicago, researchers plan to use the data they gather to classify women into four risk groups. Those deemed at higher risk will be recommended for additional home visits. The idea, Tossas-Milligan said, is to address these women’s medical issues at an early stage and at home as much as possible, to avoid costly hospital bills.

“What we are hoping to discover is issues in Englewood that truly impact health, that are not being collected,” she said, “that the doctors cannot see when they come and see [a] woman, and prescribe her one pill.”

One question the team has been asking women for example, is when they last saw a dentist. Gum disease, while unlikely to come up during an expectant mother’s hospital visit, has been linked to premature birth.

In her interview, Yolanda Flowers said that she hadn’t been to a dentist “since 1999 or 2000,” which she attributed to a lack of insurance and a longtime fear of the dentist. And at 47, Flowers has had a difficult obstetric history: three miscarriages and one premature birth. Her baby did not survive.

Flowers, who said she had “bare-bones insurance” or had been on Medicaid for much of her adult life, first attempted a planned pregnancy in 2003, with her then-fiancé. She visited a doctor who, Flowers recalled, suspected an ovarian cyst. But before they went further, Flowers’ fiancé died in an accident. In 2009, she tried to get pregnant again and visited a different doctor for help. That doctor, offered under a different health insurance plan, was not aware of her history, Flowers said, “because you only get a limited amount of time with the doctors, and there is only so much that I remembered.”

Tossas-Milligan and Arronte-Villamarin said that even if Flowers does not attempt another pregnancy, simply having that information, and having it in one place, could help them head off problems facing other potential mothers in the neighborhood.

The American health care workers would like to scale up this system to address other key health problems in underserved parts of the city.

An idea worth exploring

Experts who have studied the Cuban health system say that is an idea worth exploring, but it would require much more than just home visits and health surveys.

“When a doctor or team [in Cuba] finds there problems in the home … and they think it has any bearing on her pregnancy, she gets help,” said Dr. Mary Anne Mercer, a senior lecturer emeritus at the University of Washington.

Mercer noted that Cuba, despite being very poor, guarantees resources for at-risk women.

By contrast, the Chicago effort may identify women in Englewood as needing food or different housing, but they would have to find a way to fill those needs on their own.

“Thinking about a very poor, low-income, disadvantaged setting in the U.S., I don’t think we’ve got those resources,” Mercer said. “So it’s nice to say, ‘Yeah, we could do it, if we were willing to expend those resources,’ but I am not convinced we could.”

“Would,” Mercer corrected. “I’m not convinced we would.”

This story is part of partnership with WBEZ and PRI’s The World.

A Lesson for the US: Cuba’s Response to Hurricanes

Source:  TeleSUR
August 28 2017

texas aug 2017.jpgResidents struggle through flood waters from tropical storm Harvey in Beaumont Place, Texas, August 28. | Photo: Reuters

How a small Caribbean island with few resources manages to protect its people from extreme weather better than some of the richest countries.

A hurricane evacuation plan

Preparedness and prevention are hallmark qualities of the Cuban Revolution. They’re evident in the Caribbean island’s medical sector, educational system, environmental policies and at Playa de Giron in 1961. However, an often overlooked area where these two qualities safeguard the well-being of Cuban families is the development of a hurricane evacuation plan.

IN PICTURES:  In Cuba’s East, Solidarity Proves Crucial to Hurricane Recovery

As one-time hurricane, now tropical storm, Harvey continues to wreak havoc in Houston and other areas of Texas and Louisiana, and on the eve of the 12-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, teleSUR spoke with Gail Reed. She is executive editor of the Medicc Review, a peer-review journal about health and medicine in Latin American, Caribbean, and other developing countries, and a journalist who has spent more than three decades in Cuba. We wanted her insight into Cuba’s local preparation and prevention plans, compared to U.S. disaster relief efforts, and how these distinct measures save lives as well as property during severe storms.

Our conversation began with Reed expressing solidarity with the people of Texas and Louisiana, as well as first responders, stressing that their predicament faced with the catastrophic flooding occasioned by tropical storm Harvey is “unforgivable.”

She proceeded to detail Cuba’s intersectoral preparedness and response to hurricanes, which include education, drilling and how the country’s relatively small civil defense force is deployed at provincial, municipal and local community levels when a storm is first detected.

RELATED:  Catastrophic Flooding After Hurricane Harvey as Venezuela Expresses Solidarity

Reed stressed that while “Hurricanes give you several days warning” the Cuban government “gives seven days warning,” during which time local communities are given ample opportunity to prepare for the worst.

Constant drills

She noted that local leaders are the protagonists of “disaster warning processes based on constant drilling,” which takes place under the rubric of “risk-reduction” in every province, city, town and village.

These constant drills are coupled with an integrated response from local fire departments, health, transportation and other vital public services. Above all, Cuba places “tremendous emphasis on educating the population” to keep communities and families, particularly the most vulnerable, safe.

“A taxi driver can tell you what a hurricane 5 is on the Saffir-Simpson scale and they will give you a whole lecture on what they need to do to prepare,” said Reed.

The journalist also pointed out that Cuba no longer talks about evacuation, but rather focuses on “protection,” which includes reinforcing “a local school” capable of accommodating local communities and pets.

She said that, unlike the people of Texas and Louisiana affected by tropical storm Harvey, all of whom must apply for federal aid, Cubans, despite the country’s vastly inferior economic resources, do not feel as though they will be abandoned “no matter what,” nor subjected to market-driven price gouging of vital supplies as witnessed in Texas today.

Cuba’s “small loss of life and property,” Reed emphasized, is usually significantly less than that seen in major disasters like Hurricane Katrina and now tropical storm Harvey. And the reason is this level of preparation.

RELATED:  One Dead as Mudslides and Heavy Rains Continue in Haiti

According to Reed, the Cuban approach to prevention policies demonstrate a thoughtful insight into the sheer power of nature and the impact of climate change. The U.S. philosophy of disaster relief, on the other hand, is more of an afterthought, which fails to recognize human frailties.

Reed recalls how in 2005, Cuba, which has suffered over half century of a U.S. economic blockade, offered to send 1,500 medical professionals from the Henry Reeves Brigade to help the people of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The former U.S. President George W. Bush, swiftly rejected the offer.

cuban medical personnel assemble for Katrina 2.jpg

Cuban medical personnel assembled and ready to assist Louisiana after
Hurricane Katrina; the US did not take up its neighbour’s offer of help


Six Cuban professionals share their experiences of working in Venezuela

Source:  Granma

August 11 2017

by: Alina Perera Robbio |

Defined by their resistance and hope, six Cuban professionals at a Comprehensive Diagnostic Center share their experiences of working in Venezuela

cuban doctors in venezuela a family's missions.jpg

Every member readily entrusts their lives to the protection of their compatriots. From left to right: Alberto Ortiz, Sandier Pérez, Milaidis Auty, Yanara Guirola, Roberto Aguilera, and Alexis Ginarte. Photo: Alina Perera Robbio

Yaracuí, Venezuela.– Thousands of books, testament to a venerable work of patience, commitment and courage, could be written from the experiences of every Cuban collaborator working far away from their families, to help people all over the world.

Each one I meet has important stories to tell.

As a general rule, the collaborators support each other, and their work teams become like families, where every member readily entrusts their lives to the protection of their compatriots.

Speaking with six collaborators at the Macario Vizcalla Comprehensive Diagnostic Center (CDI) in the municipality of San Felipe, the intensity of their daily work and the strong, family-like bonds which quickly develop between all became clear.

You have to be ready to face any emergency

Twenty-seven year old Alberto Ortiz Rosales, a qualified intensive care specialist from Yara, Granma province, was the first to speak.

Alberto proudly noted that he has been working in the land of Bolívar for the last 34 months, after graduating in July 2014: “This is my first experience actually working, and it is without a doubt unique,” he explained.

As a “spoiled only child,” Alberto has had to learn to cook and live independently. “Here I didn’t have any other family, just my colleagues,” he recalled.

Regarding his work, the intensive care specialist described his profession as one that “requires you to be composed, because you have to be ready to face any emergency, because a person’s life depends on you making quick decisions.”

In Venezuela he was confronted with illnesses which, up until that point, he had only seen in books. “I’ve got a lot of stories,” noted the young healthcare professional, “but there’s one that stands out: one day a patient came to my clinic. It was 10pm and she had a wound in their abdominal wall, and was diabetic, her life was in danger. At that time, the operating theater in San Felipe was undergoing repairs and there were no general surgery specialists in the Barrio Adentro (Into the Neighborhood) mission in my municipality.

“The woman was out of options, she had already visited other healthcare centers which had referred her to other places. She needed immediate attention. I didn’t have an operating theater, or anesthesia, but had to act fast. So, I gave her a strong sedative and drained the infection, which was very big. The patient’s life was saved.”

According to Alberto, if there is one thing you learn on a mission such as this, it’s the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes.

I feel human and very fulfilled

Meanwhile, 34 year old emergency nurse Sandier Pérez García, from the province of Cienfuegos, also has experience working in difficult situations which require swift decision making. In his eight months serving in Venezuela he has had to treat various illnesses, witnessed extreme poverty, and attended patients who had never seen a doctor before, and much less been admitted to hospital.

Speaking about the gestures of gratitude he receives from patients, Sandier recalled the joy of those who regained the ability to walk thanks to the committed work of Cuban specialists. “We have had many diabetic patients come to the ward,” he noted, “saying that they can’t bear the pain; that they can’t walk; and they have left happy. This is what gives meaning to my profession. I feel human and very fulfilled with my work; I am grateful to be a nurse.”

Some call me ‘mom’

Aiding those with disabilities and helping others to develop their language and communication skills is the job and passion of 38 year old speech therapy specialist, Milaidis Auty Almenares, from Santiago de Cuba.

The young healthcare professional works with patients of all ages, but children represent a vast group for which she holds a special place in her heart. “Many came to me unable to speak,” she explained “and now they can talk. Some call me ‘mom’”.

Do you have children?

Yes, four.

When you return to Cuba, what will you tell them about your time here?

I’ll tell them that we never took a step back, that we knew how to accompany this beloved people.

Milaidis has many stories she could share with her children, like the one about the three and a half year old patient who arrived unable to speak a single word, and who today, at five years of age, sings nursery rhymes.

Overcome with emotion

Three months were enough to deeply mark 26 year old Optics and Optometry graduate Yanara Guirola González. From the town of Arabos in the province of Matanzas, Yanara has been working in Venezuela for over two years. Currently based in the State of Yaracuí, she spent the first three months of the mission in Delta Amacuro State, where she witnessed extreme poverty and had new experiences.

Overcome with emotion, Yanara recalled her experience traveling over the choppy waters of the Orinoco River, the faces of the country’s indigenous peoples, and situations that forced her to harness a strength she never knew she had; which despite everything, she noted, were worth the effort.

Fulfilling the internationalist legacy of Fidel

Meanwhile, 46 year old physiatrist Roberto Aguilera Navarro, from Santiago de Cuba, noted that the most beautiful thing about the job is “fulfilling the internationalist legacy of Comandante en Jefe Fidel, with his humanism.”

Roberto explained that he had the privilege of receiving his diploma directly from Fidel, when he graduated as a doctor in 2000: “It was the first graduation that took place at the Anti-imperialist Tribunal. He (Fidel) gave me the diploma on August 13, his birthday, and I had the privilege of being close to him.”

Repaying some of the debt we owe to humanity

Another member of this internationalist family explained that he is here to “repay some of the debt we owe to humanity.” Alexis Ginarte Osoria, a 60 year old agricultural engineer, has been working in Yaracuí for the last 18 months, where he has been sharing experiences on how to increase crop yields.

Originally from Santiago de Cuba, but currently living in Guantánamo, Alexis was born in the community of La Lata, in the Sierra Maestra. He studied agriculture, a field which, he noted, he carries in his roots. “I came to continue Cuba’s internationalist work. I participated on a mission in Angola, which had a great impact on me.”

The spirit of resistance and hope

Alexis also spoke about the 15 key economic sectors being strengthened by the Bolivarian Revolution, and efforts between Cubans and Venezuelans to share knowledge about urban agriculture, a field in which Cuba has seen much success, despite lacking resources.

Just like a family, here all share similar emotions; a unique force united by a common element: the spirit of resistance and hope.

170 U.S. medical students graduate from ELAM

August 2, 2017
Source:  Granma

Since the first graduation in 2005, over 28,500 medical students from 103 countries have studied and graduated, completely free of charge, from ELAM

ELAM 1.jpg

The Latin American School of Medicine. Photo: Cubadebate

An initiative launched by Fidel

One hundred and seventy medical students from the U.S. have graduated in Cuba, thanks to the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), an initiative launched by Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro.

Speaking exclusively to the Cuban News Agency (ACN) Zenia Díaz Catalá, director of the ELAM project general secretariat, noted that since the first graduation in 2005, to date, over 28,500 medical students from 103 countries have studied and graduated, completely free of charge, from ELAM.

Dr. David Floyd from the U.S. graduated from the school in 2017, and expressed his gratitude to the Cuban government, people, and teachers and workers affiliated with this noble project, which also stands as an example of how integration among communities from around the world can contribute to creating a more humane world.

An incredible experience

It’s been an incredible experience for me. I’m impressed by the link between theoretical and practical study, which is different from the U.S. system and that of other countries, noted the young doctor.

In Cuba you learn by touching the patient, and solidarity is really important. In my country, students don’t help each other; here both the students and professors support one another and are extremely professional, stated Floyd, an African American man who studied on the island for six years, including pre-med courses.

The young doctor completed his degree at the Salvador Allende Faculty of Havana’s University of Medical Sciences, which saw a total of 52 international students graduate this year – 25 from the United States, according to the institution’s dean, Dr. Suiberto Echavarría, speaking with ACN.

Eternal gratitude for the opportunity

David Floyd senior, father of the recent medical graduate, expressed his joy, pride and eternal gratitude for the opportunity his son has been given to study medicine in Cuba, where the training system is centered on humanist ethics and principles.

Meanwhile, Díaz Catalá noted that the ELAM program currently includes 4,690 students from 112 nations enrolled in 21 of the country’s medical sciences universities, 83 of whom are from the United States.