Thursday, July 29, 2010

A key reference on Cuban doctors abroad programmes

Cuba is rarely assessed objectively by external critics, typically being viewed through leftover Cold War filters or dismissed as an anachronism for its continuing effort to make socialism work. This book provides an excellent survey and analysis of Cuba's deeds in the international arena of health care, disaster relief and South-South cooperation. Kirk and Erisman effectively answer those critics who see Cuba's international medical programme as having foundations in the economic crisis of the 1990s (i.e., selling medical services to keep the money flowing) and instead provide a comprehensive historical accounting of Cuba's assistance to the developing world. 

The case is effectively made that Cuba's global health initiatives arise from a commitment to solidarity rather than any profit motive. Of particular interest is the revelation that in situations where Cuban military or technical support has been requested (Algeria, Angola, Congo, etc.), the Cubans ensured that medical and educational staff were significant components of any agreement. One looks forward to a followup study on Cuba's activities in Haiti, as this book was published before the January, 2010 earthquake. Cuban assistance to Haiti pre-dates the disaster by a decade, and is a prime example of the enduring benefits Cuban assistance provides: Cuba's medical teams were on the ground when the quake struck, were and continue to be the largest single medical team working on the island. This is development in practice, rather than empty words.

Important note: The authors of this book are generously donating all profits to the MEDICC programme that supports the Cuban medical effort in Haiti.

No comments: