Cuban doctor in Sierra Leone: Ebola is our most complicated challenge

Red Cross members wearing special uniform are seen in this file photo, disinfecting an area where two victims of the Ebola were found. EFE/File

Nairobi, Oct 23 (EFE).- The head of a Cuban medical team in Sierra Leone, Jorge Juan Delgado Bustillo, said they have never faced such a complicated situation like the fight against Ebola in years of cooperation missions abroad.

“We have been to many countries and this is one more, but it has a different epidemiological strategy, because in other circumstances one is more likely to know where the enemy is … but here we are in an environment where the disease is spreading every day,” Delgado told Efe in a telephone interview.

The doctor admitted that, despite a long experience in international missions, he had “never, never, never, never faced such a complicated situation.”

Nor has the team he leads. “We, as thousands of doctors in the world if they came here, except perhaps MSF (Doctors Without Borders), are facing Ebola for the first time” he explains.

The medical team led by Delgado, including 165 doctors and health workers, was the first one sent from Cuba to the epicenter of the epidemic ravaging Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Conakry, where it has killed more than 4,500 people since last March.

Cuba was the first country to respond to the call of the World Health Organization, or WHO, for medical experts to travel to the region.

“Cuba is a small country. It does not have great material resources, but has human resources: more than 90,000 physicians,” notes Delgado.

Delgado recalls that Cuban doctors have worked in over one hundred countries since the Cuban revolution and have helped, among others, victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the Pakistan earthquake, cholera in Haiti and floods in Guatemala, Bolivia and Mexico.

Although there is very little medical knowledge on the treatment of this virus, it can be faced with proper preparation, Delgado said.

The 103 nursing personnel and 62 Cuban doctors have spent several weeks preparing in Sierra Leone and in the coming days will begin seeing patients in Freetown, where they will work in small teams for six months.

They have received “intense” training, including a course to learn to “resist” the heavy protective suits.

“You have to train yourself to endure the protection suit for one, two or three hours, when it is very hot. But people adapt. We are aware that individual protection of each person is essential to avoid getting infected”, Delgado stresses.

Cuba is known worldwide for the expertise of its doctors and nurses, of whom more than 50,000 are currently involved in international missions, according to WHO.

By Desiree Garcia

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