More than 200 Cuban health professionals touched down in South Africa in the early hours of Monday morning, greeted by South African and Cuban politicians alike as the “army of the white gowns”.
The specialised Cuban medical brigade is made up of family physicians, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, healthcare technology engineers, biotechnology experts and other specialists.
The experts were “carefully selected” for their knowledge in planning, execution and management of clinical cases and public response, News24 reported.
“They will be deployed in different provinces of the country in accordance with the strategic plans elaborated by the Department of Health,” the Cuban Embassy in South Africa said.
Welcoming the brigade, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor conveyed the government’s appreciation for the “solidarity and prompt response” to the request made by South Africa.
“We ask[ed] the government of Cuba and the people of Cuba to send a multidisciplinary team of experts and health professionals.
“These men and women are to work alongside South African health professionals in our response to Covid-19,” Pandor said.
“Cuba has once again proven the character of its nation through its act of international human solidarity.”
Cuba has already rolled out members of its medical brigade to 21 different countries worldwide, Pandor said.
“We thank each and every one of the Cuban health professionals who are part of this team for their personal commitment and sacrifice in order to assist SA’s efforts to curb Covid-19.”
Cuban Ambassador Rodolfo Benítez Verson also welcomed his countrymen to the “beautiful land of Nelson Mandela” and expressed his pride in the brigade.
“We are very proud of you, you are our best soldiers because you are the soldiers of the army of the white gowns created by our commander-in-chief, Fidel Castro,” Verson said.
“Your mission in South Africa is going to be a difficult one, a complex one. You will be fighting every day against an invincible enemy, a very destructive enemy and you will have to do so without your families, without your friends… but we know that you are very well prepared to face any difficulty, we know that you will raise very high the name of Cuba.”
“There can be no more honourable mission than the one entrusted to you, through your work you will be saving lives of brothers [and] of sisters in South Africa and you should be proud of that.”
He assured the brigade that they would receive kindness and affection from the people and government of South Africa.