Cuba leading $690m reconstruction program for Haiti

Cuba is coordinating a $690 million program for the reconstruction of Haiti’s healthcare system, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla announced at a UN donor conference in New York.

The “Program for the Reconstruction and Strengthening of the National Health System in Haiti,” designed by the Haitian government to “ensure broad health coverage especially for low-income people,” according to Rodríguez, is funded by Venezuela and Brazil so far.

Under the four-year Haiti-Cuba-Venezuela agreement, Cuba will build and equip 101 primary care centers in Haiti that will attend up to 2.8 million patients a year. To treat earthquake survivors with multiple injuries, Cuba will also build up 30 rehabilitation wards for up to 520,000 patients a year, as well as three electro-medicine centers, one orthopedic prosthesis lab, and a comprehensive hygiene and epidemiology program. Cuba already set up 30 secondary-care community hospitals throughout Haiti for 2.15 million patients and 54,000 surgeries. In addition, the program includes creation of a tertiary-care specialties hospital, for which Cuba expects contributions of other countries.

On March 26, the ministers of health of Cuba, Brazil and Haiti met with Haitian President René Préval in Port-au-Prince to sign a three-way memorandum of understanding about long-term medical aid. The government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva set aside $80 million for “training and education of human resources in Haiti” as well as building a national network of disease control centers, Brazilian Health Minister José Gomes Temporão told Prensa Latina.

Cuba expects more  nations to support the medical program in Haiti, via the United Nations. Rodríguez described the program as a bargain, at $170 million a year during the first four years.

“The medical program that we are proposing will benefit 75 per cent of the population most in need, at a minimum cost,” Rodríguez said during the donor conference. “We invite all governments without exception to contribute to this noble effort.”

Bruno Rodríguez: "Minimal cost"


“It is possible to do it. Our practical experience can attest to that.  In fact, this program is already in progress.”

Increasingly, wealthier countries find that supporting Cuban expertise and activities in poor areas is more cost-effective than building their own aid programs. Venezuelan support aside, the Brazilian program is Cuba’s biggest medical cooperation project funded by a third country, and the first time for Brazil to cooperate directly with Cuba in a third country. Cuba has recently been seeking — and getting — third-country funding of healthcare and education aid projects in other developing nations. In the two most recent cases, South Africa contributed $1 million to Cuban healthcare programs in Tanzania, and Norway donated $800,000 to Cuban relief efforts in Haiti. 

Cuba initiated its first medical aid program for Haiti in 1998 and has been building up the program systematically since. Rodríguez estimated the cost of Cuban pre-earthquake medical aid to Haiti at $400 million. Since the earthquake, Cuba deployed 700 Cuban doctors and 278 foreign graduates of the Havana-based Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) to Haiti. Cuban personnel attended 260,000 patients since the Jan. 12 earthquake and performed 7,000 surgeries.

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