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People's Peace Prize Awarded to Cuba's International Medical Brigade

On October 8, Cuba's Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disasters and Serious Epidemics received the People's Peace Prize, awarded by U.S. members of the campaign to award it this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

"During this COVID-19 pandemic, we were very inspired to see how the medical personnel of a small island under a criminal blockade risked their own lives to save others in different countries throughout the world," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war organization Code Pink.

She expressed regret that the medical brigade was not recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee, explaining that this is why they were given the People's Peace Prize, to highlight "the incredible solidarity, humanism and values that they demonstrated for so many years."

The Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics was created on September 19, 2005 in Havana, at the initiative of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, to show how to respond to tragedies around the world. Its name honours a youth from the U.S. who fought for Cuba in its First War of Independence from Spain.

"We will show that human beings can and should be better. We demonstrate the value of conscience and ethics. We offer life," said Fidel.

The first emergency it faced a few days after its creation was in Guatemala, where it assisted the population affected by the floods that occurred there in October 2005 and also during the earthquake in Pakistan. Cuba also offered to aid people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the massive flooding in September 2005, but the U.S. rejected the aid.

Among its many other missions, in 2010, the brigade assisted those affected by the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Cuba was one of the first countries in the world to respond to the call of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations to confront the Ebola epidemic in Africa in 2014.

More recently, the health care professionals of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade have provided assistance to more than 40 countries to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The brigade has received many awards, including the Dr. Lee Jong-wook award from the WHO in 2017.

Since the triumph of its revolution, Cuba has had a long history of providing internationalist medical assistance to other countries, beginning in May 1960, when it sent its first international emergency medical brigade to Chile after it was hit by the massive Valdivia earthquake.

All those who participated in the campaign to nominate the Henry Reeve's Brigade for a Nobel Peace Prize deserve hearty congratulations. A message of congratulations issued by the Embassy of Cuba in Ireland points out:

"The campaign had a goal that went far beyond the award itself. It was about facing a brutal hostile propaganda maneuver undertaken by the Donald Trump government against Cuban medical cooperation, which even attempted to intimidate the governments that received such cooperation.

"It was about mobilizing international public opinion in favour of the recognition of Cuban health professionals, who left to help other peoples when the COVID-19 pandemic took thousands of lives a day and health systems collapsed.

"While Trump hid bodies in refrigerated trucks and suggested the use of bleach as an effective remedy against the pandemic, Cuban doctors went anywhere on the planet where it was necessary to save lives.

"A total of 57 brigades worked in more than 40 countries.

"We do not know how many candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize received the support of statesmen, heads of government, parliamentarians, international personalities and countless organizations that from dozens of countries recognized the work of Henry Reeve. [...] Henry Reeve has the best of all possible awards: the recognition and sincere gratitude of the peoples."

(Prensa Latina, Cubaminex)

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 10 - October 10, 2021

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