Santa Elena de Uairen, October 21st, 2014. (venezuelanalysis.com)- At the request of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, member countries of the ALBA trade bloc met yesterday at a special summit in Havana, Cuba to discuss methods of preventing the spread of the ebola virus in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Venezuelan government has donated US$5 million to the United Nations to fight the spread of the virus.
“I am of the conviction,” Cuban president Raul Castro said in his opening statement, “that if this threat is not stopped and resolved in West Africa, with an efficient international response backed by sufficient resources, coordinated by the World Health Organization of the United Nations, it could become one of the gravest pandemics in human history.”
Castro announced that Cuba would be deploying two new medical brigades, comprised of 91 health care workers, to Liberia and Guinea, two of the countries most effected by the virus.
These brigades will serve in addition to the 165 medical workers who recently arrived in Sierra Leone. The ebola virus has killed an estimated 4,500 people in Western Africa.
“We believe any form of politicization should be avoided in regards to this grave problem,” Castro said. “It would only divert us from the fundamental objective which is the aid needed to confront this epidemic.”
The Cuban president indicated that “Cuba is willing to work shoulder to shoulder with all countries, including the United States” to that end.
UN representative David Navarro delivered a message from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recognizing the solidarity being offered by ALBA countries, while noting that Cuba has sent more doctors than the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or any other country.
The meeting, which lasted three hours and whose sole topic was virus prevention, produced a 23-point joint declaration which includes plans for increased vigilance at borders, ports, and airports, as well as the creation of a regional team of medical experts, and an educational campaign to inform people how to prevent contraction and how to handle a person who contracts ebola.
No cases have yet been reported in Latin America or the Caribbean, but isolated cases have been registered in the United States and Spain.
ALBA will hold another conference at the end of the month to finalize the action plan, which each of the member states’ health ministers must have ready by November 5.
“We’ve approved an action plan that’s going to allow us to join efforts to prevent and protect our peoples from this threat. Also to support Cuba’s effort … in the vanguard of aid for West Africa,” said Venezuelan president Maduro.
The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) was founded in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela as a means of facilitating region economic integration with an emphasis on social development and mutual aid.
Monday’s meeting was attended by representatives of member countries Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Commonwealth of Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Saint Lucia.
Haiti was also represented as a permanent invited guest of the bloc, as well as Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis, whose incorporation into ALBA has already been approved.