Havana | ” Our heroes in white coats “: as football players return to the country after having won the world Cup, Cuba was welcomed in triumph Monday evening, his doctors sent for two months in Italy to assist in the fight against the sars coronavirus.
Tired faces but flag-waving italians and cubans to the exit of the plane, the medical brigade, consisting of 36 physicians, 15 nurses and an administrator, has landed in the late afternoon in Havana, from Milan, from the images broadcast live on television in cuba.
All of which have a mask, gloves, and a white blouse, they were each given a red rose and a medal at an official ceremony at the airport of the capital, that they had left on march 22 to go in Lombardy, which was then the epicentre of the disease.
Prudence requires in these times of pandemic, it is by the giant screen interposed the president, Miguel Diaz-Canel has made a tribute since the hall of the Council of ministers and accompanied by several members of the government.
“You represent the victory of life over death, of solidarity over egoism, of the ideal socialist market “, has he launched, also decked out in a mask on the face. And ” you have shown the world a truth, that the enemies of Cuba have tried to conceal or misrepresent: the strength of the medicine cuban “.
Controversy and return to grace
Because this program of sending cuban doctors abroad, which has existed since the 1960s but has experienced a real revival on the occasion of the outbreak of coronavirus, is not unanimous.
He is harshly criticised by the United States and Brazil, who report the conditions of work of these professionals, including a large part of the wage up to the State.
Cuba, which has started to charge for this service to the more affluent countries, since the 2000s, has earned $ 6.3 billion in 2018, which makes it one of its main sources of income.
But last year, the island has suffered from the reconfiguration policy in Latin America, which has largely swung to the right.
Result: she had to renounce the contracts of the sending of doctors in Brazil, in Bolivia, in Ecuador and in el Salvador, a blow hard political and financial.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, coronaviruses, this program has a return to grace: Cuba has sent 1 870 health professionals in 26 countries, including Mexico, the principality of Andorra, South Africa or Qatar.
“It has saved lives “
For these doctors just returned from Italy, and marched by bus through a part of the city, the controversy is far from it.
Seasoned professionals who have often carried out several missions abroad before they come back with the feeling of duty accomplished.
“In Italy, it has been a hard work because the Lombardy region was the epicentre of the Covid-19, but, as in the previous missions, we were able to give the best of ourselves,” says Carlos Carrilla, nurse, 53-year-old: “It was successful, it worked well and it has saved lives! “
Dean of the brigade, the doctor Leonardo Fernandez, age 68, is already in its eighth foreign mission, with a track record that impresses: “I was in Nicaragua, to the earthquake in Haiti and one in Pakistan, (…) for Ebola in Liberia, Mozambique on two occasions… “
This kind of crisis, ” we face in knowing the risks, but decided “, because “it is our work,” he says simply.
Younger, dr. Roberto Arias, 28 years old, has filled in Italy his first mission abroad, ” an experience unimaginable “.
“We arrived there, and we really found a hospital completely overwhelmed, with patients in the corridor, almost all of the patients under assisted ventilation, a tremendous amount of deaths, ambulances constantly changing and all the streets deserted,” he recalls.
Today he is happy to be back near his family.
“Just today my son has a year! “, he says with emotion. But it will still take a bit of patience: the entire brigade will now spend 14 days in solitary confinement, before being able to return to a normal life.