Published on 8 November 2015 by Telesur English
Cuban doctors have served over 29 million Hondurans and saved at least 250,800 Honduran lives over the past 17 years, according to local media.
Since arriving in the Central American country in 1998, Cuban doctors have focused on serving rural areas with little or no access to healthcare, the Cuban Medical Brigade leader Orlando Alvarez told Honduras’ La Prensa.
The Cuban Medical Brigade was initially sent to Honduras in 1998 by former Cuban President Fidel Castro to help respond to the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. The tropical storm impacted all of Central America but hit Honduras the hardest, killing at least 7,000 Hondurans and leaving at least 1.5 million more homeless.
Honduras and Cuba later agreed to lengthen the stay of Cuban health professionals in the country to provide healthcare to underserved regions.
According to Alvarez, Cuban doctors have acted in a “compassionate and altruistic” manner throughout their almost two decades of providing healthcare in Honduras.
In addition to saving over a quarter of a million lives in Honduras, Cuban doctors have carried out hundreds of thousands of surgeries, exams, and other healthcare services and offered preventative health education.
Cuba previously provided medical support to Honduras in 1974, when the country had suffered another devastating blow from Hurricane Fifi, one of the deadliest Atlantic tropical storms on record at the time.
The statistics of Cuba’s massive contribution to Honduran healthcare come as Honduras faces a healthcare crisis that has prompted a series of popular protests since last year.
In 2014, the Honduran government announced US$35 million in cuts to the 2015 national health system budget, as well as funding cuts to the country's two principal public hospitals. Since then, thousands of patients, including some 32,000 HIV positive people, have suffered the impacts of drug shortages and a nurse-to-patient ratio about nine times smaller than the international standard.
While hospitals suffered severe drug and funding shortages as a result, Honduran authorities discovered in June over US$2 million in expired medicines in storage in the country's social security institute, simultaneously embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.
Meanwhile, Honduran nurses have denounced difficult working conditions and their inability to deliver needed care to hundreds of patients.
Activists have also criticized a government plan to decentralize national hospitals as a sign of government inefficiency and an increasing move toward privatization of healthcare.