By Florida Africana Studies Consortium (Change.org)
We add our voices to the many around the world who have nominated Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigades for the Nobel Peace Prize. Peace between nations is an imperative for the continued well-being of our planet. But, to exist, peace must be supported by the just practice of caring labor across difference and a commitment to the health and well-being of all human beings. These values and actions are exactly what the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigades embody.
These highly trained medical personnel, specialists in disaster situations and serious epidemics have sent 800 teams of the brigades to fight COVID-19 in countries, including Angola, Italy, Suriname, Jamaica, Dominica, Belize, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, South Africa some of them reinforcing existing Cuban medical missions. In cases where countries are unable to pay for their services, the brigades work for free to prevent further loss of life and disablement. Despite the sanctions from the United States against Cuba, Cuban Medical teams have risen to the challenge during the COVID-19 Pandemic to serve anywhere during this century’s greatest need. The arrival of the Cuban medical team in Italy was significant in abating the spread of COVID-19 there to the rest of the world. The Cuban Medical Brigades are carrying on the historic and democratized health tradition put in place in their country. They advance Cuba’s well-respected and innovative health systems into locations where people experience precarious health conditions. Major services of these doctors have been provided already to Haiti in the wake of the 2010 Earthquake and at the height of the 2014-16 West Africa Ebola outbreak.
We make this nomination as thinking people who understand what their work means to those of us who benefited from their labor. We know that many might not otherwise have survived without their intervention. As we witness this invaluable work, we are eternally grateful for what we have learned about the value of human life even in dire circumstances. Cuba lends regional support in spite of all it does not have and gives from what it does not have to all who need. In the Caribbean, the health brigades have strengthened regional networks in a context in which colonial legacy have left poverty, external dependency and linguistic division. From Haiti to South Africa, from Togo to Italy, from Ebola to COVID 19, the Cuban doctors and nurses of the Henry Reeve Brigade demonstrate that the right to health is a human right that should be defended even in the most difficult conditions. They have taught us that the way humans deal with illness teaches us about the meaning of our humanity, our relationship to each other and the planet and the integrity of our social systems.
The Cuban medical brigades model an example of creative alternatives to conventional flows of resources and knowledge along the lines of age-old North/South inequity. To do this in a world that seems to have forgotten that alternatives to hierarchy and inequality are possible is to work for peace. In spite of the challenges they experience from a longstanding blockade by the US, they continue to inspire and provide lessons the world can learn from their caring work and spirit of solidarity. For all these reasons we nominate the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigades for the Nobel Peace prize. Thank you, Cuba for having put so many of your resources, in spite of crippling sanctions, into building valuable human beings and knowledge systems that you can share with the world and for reminding us that human life and human relationships are the fabric of peace.
Featured image: Cuban doctors arriving to South Africa to help in th fight against Covid-19