The Central American governments gathered in El Salvador on November 9, for an emergency meeting, requested from the international community a set of measures to assist in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the countries in that region tragically damaged by the devastating force of hurricane "Mitch".
Cuba immediately supported the seven measures requested from the international
community by the Central American governments and condoned Nicaragua's
debt, that being the only Central American country with pending obligations
with Cuba, amounting to 50.1 million USD. At the same time, we expressed
our willingness to provide the necessary medical personnel to the Central
American countries affected by the hurricane, free of charge, and for as
long as necessary.
We are aware that ours is a modest contribution but we realize that such an action undertaken by a poor country facing great economic difficulties such as Cuba may become a source of encouragement for all those that, with more resources available, can contribute to the reconstruction and development as required and deserved by some of the most impoverished and suffering peoples in this hemisphere.
As reconstruction and economic development become impossible in the
absence of a comprehensive health program in a region where --exception
made of Costa Rica which enjoys good health rates-- over 50 thousand people
perish every year, most of them under 5 years old, whose lives could be
saved at a relatively modest economic cost; Cuba reaffirms that, if one
or several countries with an availability of resources provide the necessary
medications, it would be willing to send the medical personnel required
to undertake a short and middle-term comprehensive health program in those
countries affected by hurricane "Mitch".
Assuming that 30 thousand people have perished --that is dead and missing people-- in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador combined, the program proposed by Cuba might save every year as many lives as have been lost due to hurricane "Mitch", no less than 25 thousand of them children under 5 years old.
Four Cuban medical brigades are already working in the most distant
and complicated places in Honduras. A fifth brigade will be arriving tomorrow.
Two others are likewise working in Guatemala. Over 100 physicians from
different specialties, and ancillary personnel, are working in those two
countries providing emergency care.
Cuba is prepared to immediately send, free of charge, 2 thousand physicians to Honduras, Guatemala and any other country affected by the hurricane which needs it. They will work for as long as required in the remotest places that lack direct medical care and they will do so in close cooperation with the international health organizations, the local doctors and the national structure of hospitals and clinics.
Additionally, Cuba is offering 500 scholarships every year for those
Central American youth who wish to study medicine in our country.
At the same time, we are soliciting the support of other Latin American countries who wish to make a contribution to this program.
If Spain, a country which has so generously agreed to make a remarkable
contribution to the reconstruction and progress of Central America and
which has been particularly sensitive to the interests of Latin America,
decided to take part in this program, then it might be defined as an "Ibero
American comprehensive health development program for the Central American
countries affected by hurricane Mitch".
We gladly take note of the fact that many governments, organizations and peoples are offering their solidarity and support to the Central American nations in their recovery efforts and to re-build their devastated economies.
Every year, the permanent hurricane of poverty and underdevelopment is killing tens of thousands of Central American people whose bodies are not shown by television floating in the water or covered by mud. They are quietly buried by their families without anyone knowing about it. Now, we should not only mourn the dead but do something to save those who are quietly dying every year.