January 19, 2010

Will CARICOM officially include Cuba as a partner in Haiti?

PRIME MINISTER DAVID THOMPSON is quite right in asserting, as he did last week, that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has a "greater obligation" than most other regions of the world in reaching out to Haiti to cope with its horrific earthquake devastation.

Lest, however, CARICOM comes to be unfairly perceived like rich and powerful nations reaching out of a guilt complex in rushing emergency humanitarian aid to a country and people accustomed to being neglected, then there needs to be some creative initiatives for a collective response by the Greater Caribbean.
That means, for example, moving to involve Cuba, and to a lesser extent the Dominican Republic, in practical responses such as the announced plan for CARICOM to establish a field hospital as a priority aid option to care for survivors of the cataclysmic disaster.

The reality of Cuba's proven capacity to deliver doctors and medical supplies at times of natural disasters is recognised well beyond the Caribbean region.

On the other hand, with all the expressed commitment and goodwill being shown for the suffering Haitians, while the dead are being buried in mass graves, and countless injured are crying out for help, CARICOM would be well aware of its own limitations in seeking to respond to the scale of medical personnel, facilities and supplies desperately required.

Before the United States authorities took control of Haiti's international airport last Friday, it was reported that 30 Cuban doctors had already departed to join an estimated 300 of their colleagues in that disaster-plagued nation who have been providing medical aid to Haitian communities within the past two years.

Question is whether CARICOM will now seize this moment to officially request Cuba's involvement in the proposed field hospital and other medical initiatives in Haiti, within the context of the community's functional cooperation agreement with the Cuban government?

Such an opportunity will present itself today at a meeting scheduled for the Dominican Republic, called for by Spain as current chair of the European Union, and at which some CARICOM states are to be represented at heads and ministerial level.

CARICOM, and much moreso the rich and powerful nations, have an obligation to Haiti, to go well beyond short and medium-term humanitarian relief. They must be involved also in sustained social and economic aid for at least a reasonable state of recovery from the country's worst natural disaster since independence in 1804.


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