WASHINGTON – When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Cuba responded to emergency requests for trained medical personnel by sending 53 health teams to 39 countries on four continents. The health teams were able to assist countries with fragile health systems that were ill-equipped to deal with COVID-19.
Cuba was able to respond so quickly to this crisis because they had prepared. In 2005, Cuba’s leaders looked ahead and saw a world increasingly beset by pandemics and natural disasters. This led them to initiate a program to train professional medical personnel to be able to respond quickly to emergency requests from other nations, an initiative known as the Henry Reeve Brigades.
“Cuba, a small country with a huge heart, has looked outwards and made a significant world-wide contribution to saving lives during COVID-19. This major contribution by the Cuban medical teams deserves our recognition as well as a Nomination for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize,” said Rick Arnold, executive member of the Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians.
Cuba’s response to COVID-19 eclipses all other front-line efforts from industrialized nations in the fight against COVID-19. This response is more remarkable given that the island nation has been under a decades-long embargo by the United States of America. The U.S. State Department has made it known since the beginning of the pandemic that they might retaliate against any country receiving Cuban medical personnel. Only one country has capitulated to these threats from the U.S., and that country is Canada.
Dr. John Kirk, an expert on Cuba’s humanitarian efforts and its medical internationalism and a professor at Dalhousie University’s Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies, officially nominated the Henry Reeve Brigade for the Nobel Peace Prize. “For decades Cuba has provided medical cooperation to scores of countries—and the support of some 4,000 medics working in 39 countries in the fight against COVID-19 is just the latest example. The nomination for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize—which the Henry Reeve Brigade thoroughly deserves—means that this is no longer one of the world’s best-kept secrets,” said Dr. Kirk.
The Council of Canadians fully supports this nomination effort and are honoured to be working in solidarity with the endorsers listed below.
- Individual endorsers include the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, Dr. Anna Banerji, Jane Bunnett, John Cartwright, George Elliot Clarke, Bruce Cockburn, Elizabeth Hay, The Rt. Hon. Michaelle Jean, Dr. Noni E. MacDonald, MP Elizabeth May, Senator Pierrette Ringuette, Svend Robinson and David T. Suzuki.
- Organizational endorsers include Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research, Canadian Society for International Health, Common Frontiers, the Council of Canadians, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Peace Brigades International, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Sisters of Providence of Saint Vincent de Paul, Unifor, United Church of Canada and United Steelworkers (USW).