“We are ready and willing to overcome any adversity,” stated Dr. Ricardo Martínez Llizo, a member of the 23rd Brigade of the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specializing in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics, currently providing services in Peru.
Twenty-three Cuban collaborators have been working in the Peruvian region of Catacaos, in Bajo Piura, since March 31, treating victims of the intense rains and floods which recently hit the South American nation.
Their work is without a doubt an example of both altruism and the continuation of the legacy of Ernesto Che Guevara – heroic guerilla, doctor, and internationalist combatant who contributed to many of the independence struggles waged by the peoples of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Prior to this mission, Dr. Martínez Llizo worked in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from 2010 to 2014, and was a member of the Henry Reeve Contingent which fought the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, specifically Liberia, from October, 2014, to March, 2015.
He also responded to the call for assistance made by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in late 2015, after which he traveled to Haiti where he was stationed from July 2016 through January 2017.
Dr. Martínez Llizo, also a grade one internal and intensive medicine specialist, explained that he works as a clinician, offering his skills as an intensive care expert on every international mission.
According to the doctor, the most poignant memory of all his missions is that of a Liberian child with Ebola. He recalled that on starting his shift one day, a teary-eyed little boy begged him: “Save me Cuban, I don’t want to die,” words he remembers to this very day and which deeply affected him.
“We all focused on fulfilling the medical protocols, were rigorous in providing treatment and food to the little boy, who we managed to save. When he was discharged he kept repeating ‘Thank you Cuba,’” Martínez Llizo stated.
The specialist was on shift at the Frank País Ibero-American Traumatology and Orthopedics Institute, located in the Havana neighborhood of La Lisa, when he heard news of the disaster in Peru. He went straight to the capital’s Central Unit for Medical Collaboration, where he received more information on the serious weather conditions in the country, after which he was given a general briefing, before immediately setting off for Peru.
“They asked me if I would be willing to participate on the mission, and after I agreed, I began to attend talks on how to respond to an epidemiological situation like the one I was going to face; as well as the most common conditions we would be treating in the zone. The importance of our own personal care and protection was stressed, to prevent ourselves from becoming patients,” Martínez Llizo explained.
The Cuban doctor is currently working in the Santa Rosa II-2 Hospital in the department of Piura, where collaborators have had to treat cases of hypertension caused by post-traumatic stress, and successfully performed complex surgical procedures.
“We feel very positive, we really want to help the Peruvian people. We are motivated by our revolutionary principles and humanist desire to save lives,” he stated.
The brigade, composed of 12 Cuban doctors and 11 healthcare professions, with over ten years experience and having participated on previous international missions, has to date provided over 3,600 consultations to treat respiratory and diarrheal infections, all undertaken with strict adherence to sanitarily protocols.
For this mission, the Cuban government sent over 7.2 tons of medicines and disposable materials, which have enabled collaborators to treat some 20,000 people.
The brigade is stationed at various locations across the camps of San Pablo (with 3,000 residents); Kilómetro 980 (with 6,000), Virgen Elena, Comunidad Campesina and Pedregal, which are providing shelter to flood victims.
Martínez Llizo went on to emphasize that collaborators have undertaken 678 activities to educate the population in health prevention measures and beneficial hygiene habits.
Since its creation in 2005 by Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, the ranks of the Henry Reeve Contingent have been occupied by over 7,254 Cuban doctors, nurses and health technicians across 22 brigades; offering services in 20 nations across the globe, on two occasions in Haiti and Chile.
Young Peruvians Yazmín Morín Flores and Henry Carvajal Herrera, fifth and sixth year medical students at the Ernesto Che Guevara Medical Sciences Faculty in the province of Pinar del Río, respectively, expressed their deep admiration for the solidarity work being undertaken by Cuban doctors in their country, as well as their willingness to help their compatriots if necessary.
“Cuba has always shown solidarity to us Peruvians,” stated Yazmín, nothing that, “I remember the assistance the island offered in 1970 following an earthquake which destroyed an entire city. Many Cubans, including President Fidel Castro Ruz, donated blood and sent it to my country. Then in 2007, a second Cuban medical brigade was the first to arrive to Pisco, in the region of Ica, following another strong quake. The contingent stayed for five years. I know very well the gratitude of the Peruvian people for such noble gestures.”
Meanwhile, Henry noted “For me it’s an honor to speak about Cuba, a country in which I have observed solidarity, hospitality, and assistance; a nation which collaborates with all people and works to demand social justice for the poor of the world. On this island we are training to become selfless medical professionals willing to offer our services and contribute to alleviating disasters suffered by others.”