The main role of this specialised contingent, which was founded in Cuba, is to provide immediate assistance to any country suffering from hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes, as well as to deal with major epidemics.
Floods in Guatemala and an earthquake in Pakistan measuring 7.6 on the Ritcher scale were the first missions of the doctors of the Henry Reeve Brigades of Cuba, now in their 16th year, founded by Fidel Castro.
Henry Reeve, the name that accompanies the island’s army of doctors, was that of a young American known to posterity as “the little Englishman”, who at the age of 19 travelled to the largest of the Antilles to join the emancipation cause of the Liberation Army in the second half of the 19th century, in a frank gesture of support.
In 2006 the Henry Reeve Contingent arrived in Indonesia to provide relief to that earthquake-stricken nation, as well as in 2010 to Chile and Haiti, the latter hit by the cholera epidemic.
But perhaps one of the most challenging missions for its members was the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
A group of 260 health professionals travelled in 2014 to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the countries hardest hit by the disease. They saved the lives of some seven thousand people.
And the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic did not stop Cuba’s medical solidarity.
By May 2020, the Caribbean Island was contributing 2,300 collaborators in 26 brigades to the fight against the disease, according to data declared by the Cuban Minister of Public Health José Ángel Portal, speaking at the World Health Organisation Assembly.
The Henry Reeve Brigades arrived in Italy as scenes and photographs of military trucks loading coffins in that country filled social media.
They were applauded in the Principality of Andorra and Azerbaijan. For the first time, aid reached Europe, at the most sensitive moments of the disease’s passage through the so-called old continent.
By September 2020, 43 brigades were active in 33 countries and 2,523 professionals were caring for patients suffering from the deadly disease.
In 2021, several groups have returned to the national territory after completing their work, with different origins, including South Africa, Mexico, Panama, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, among others.
According to the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, as of March this year, 57 Henry Reeve contingents had worked in 40 countries.
Expressions of gratitude come today in the form of dozens of calls for a Nobel Peace Prize for these doctors.
The campaign began in April 2020 at the proposal of solidarity organisations in Europe, mainly in France, with the movements Cuba Linda and Francia Cuba, and immediately received the support of political forces, writers and artists, legislators and public officials.
Mexican citizens from different walks of life joined in, led by the Cervantes Prize winner Elena Poniatowska.
Although their cooperation is not award-driven, the Henry Reeve Brigades hold the Dr Lee Jong-Wook Memorial Public Health Award, awarded by the World Health Organization in May 2017 in recognition of their work in combating Ebola in Africa. (PL)