Washington: Secretary of State John Kerry paid a rare US compliment to Cuba on Friday, acknowledging the communist island nation’s role in the global fight against Ebola in West Africa.
“Already we are seeing nations large and small stepping up in impressive ways to make a contribution on the frontlines,” Kerry told foreign diplomats in Washington as he pleaded for a greater mobilization against the epidemic.
“Cuba, a country of just 11 million people, has sent 165 health professionals and it plans to send nearly 300 more.”
The US government rarely speaks of Cuba in friendly terms, and the two nations have been at odds for more than half a century.
Havana and Washington have not had formal diplomatic ties since 1961 and the United States maintains comprehensive economic sanctions against Cuba.
In all, Cuba’s medical contingent in West Africa is expected to reach more than 461.
“There is no country that is exempt from being able to do something to be able to contribute to this effort and help make a difference,” Kerry said.
“Everything we do depends on how we coordinate our efforts as partners and how we contribute together.”
Kerry thanked France and Britain for their response and acknowledged contributions from Germany, the European Union, the African Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on the world to do more in the fight against Ebola, while insisting his own country would be “much more aggressive” in its response.
“The fact is we haven’t begun yet to fully meet the challenge at hand,” Kerry said.
The United States is sending 4,000 soldiers to West Africa to help in the fight against the epidemic and it has allocated USD 1 billion to the military.
“We are using every instrument of American power in order to try to get this job done,” Kerry said.
He also called on the world to send more health care workers to the region.
“We need to do everything that we can to provide these men and women the protective equipment and the treatment that they need,” Kerry said.
Obama has recently relaxed travel rules to Cuba, but the United States maintains a hard line against the country located 90 miles (145 kilometers) off the Florida coast.
Several recent opinion polls have shown that a majority of Americans are in favor of a change in policy toward Cuba.