Cuba, the tiny island of 11 million people, received giant waves of praises Wednesday in Abuja as labour and civil society leaders described it as the world’s “leading moral leader in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa”.
Cuba has sent 256 doctors and health professionals to Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, the epicenter of the epidemic, which has so far killed 4500 patients and infected 400 health officials in the sub region.
Activist lawyer, Femi Falana, who spoke for the civic groups said in the “ongoing war against Ebola, only Cuba has shown solidarity with the traumatised peoples of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea without resorting to stigmatising or discriminating against them”.
Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, contrasted Cuba’s solidarity with the engagement principles of countries which are “feeding fat on African financial and material resources but have refused to contribute human resources to the monumental humanitarian crisis that have ravaged our sister neighbours since this Ebola scourge”.
He said Cuba represents an inspiring example and tasked Nigerian political and health leaders not to be carried away by the WHO declaration that Nigeria is now free of Ebola.
“If we are the true leaders of the region, then we cannot be truly free of Ebola when our neighbours, brothers, and sisters are dying daily of the disease,” Mr. Falana said while thanking “the good people and government of Cuba for its leadership in global health care”.
The Nigerian Labour Congress, represented by Isa Aremu, the Vice President of the NLC said Cuba’s example was evidence of a consistent commitment to Africa’s independence, freedom, and progress, pointing to Cuba’s role in the decolonization effort in Africa and the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
“Not only are Cuban doctors working in over 30 African countries today,” Mr. Aremu noted, the decisive deployment of Cuban troops in the last days of the fight against apartheid was what ultimately forced the apartheid regime to the negotiating table.
Mr. Aremu isolated China and Israel for harsh remark after Israel voted against sending health officials to the three Ebola-infected nations.
“Cuba has no financial, construction, or any such interest in our region yet they are sending the most critical resource which is their human resource,” he said.
He joined Mr. Falana in calling for the lift of American diplomatic embargo against Cuba saying “those who claim to be our friends cannot be so by being enemies of our benefactors”.
An elated Cuban ambassador, Hugo Ramos Nilenes, said his country’s commitment to Africa is part of its historical obligation to the region because “African blood flows through the veins of our America and contributed to the independence and wealth of many of our countries in the Americas including the United States”.
Cuba currently has 4000 health personnel in 32 African countries.
According to Mr, Nilenes, disclosed that his country is ready to develop training programmes in any African country not affected by the epidemic and where there is the presence of Cuban medical officials on issues of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.