Members of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade in Turkey. (Photo: Cuban Embassy in Turkey)
Since their arrival in Turkey, 32 Cuban health workers from the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade have worked to deliver essential care in parts of the country affected by the two strong earthquakes on February 6. Between February 12 and 19, the health workers had reached more than 260 patients, providing everything from primary healthcare to intensive care and pediatric surgery. According to the Cuban Embassy in Turkey, by February 19, Cuban health workers performed 13 major surgeries, of which 4 were pediatric.
Healthcare delivery in Turkey is still impaired by the extreme damage caused by the earthquakes, the unrelenting pressure on existing health services, as well as the cold season. In these circumstances, the contributions of local and international medical volunteers has been invaluable. This is not only true when it comes to surgical or intensive care, but also where community-based primary healthcare is concerned.
Dr Abel Aguilar Rodríguez, one of the physicians currently working in Turkey, reflected on the primary care delivered to people displaced or otherwise affected by the earthquakes in the Kahramanmaraş region, in a report to the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba. According to his report, a multidisciplinary team of Cuban health workers engaged in the type of field-work they know very well from home, making sure that everybody had access to the healthcare they needed.
“We felt very much loved by the people of the community, even though they did not know who we were at first. Most of the people we reached were peasants and elderly people,” Dr Aguilar Rodríguez said in his report.
Most of the Cuban medical team in Turkey has previous experience in international solidarity work. According to the Ministry of Public Health, 69 percent of the health workers posted in the open-ended mission in Turkey had previously traveled to other countries to provide healthcare. This has prepared them for the language and organizational differences they might encounter during their current mission.
According to Dr Ruber Ortiz Legra, a general medicine specialist who previously took part in the COVID-19 relief efforts in Azerbaijan, such experiences will be invaluable in driving the mission in Turkey and will ensure that Cuba and its health brigades are once again recognized as conveyors of international solidarity.