The alliance of left-leaning Latin American and Caribbean nations known as the ALBA-TCP agreed to share resources, doctors and information as they cobble together a plan to fight the global Ebola outbreak.
Meeting in Havana on Monday, representatives from more than 11 nations agreed to a 23-point plan that includes public health campaigns, increased screening at borders and ports of entry, and creating specialized teams in each member country.
“I’m convinced that if this threat isn’t stopped in Western Africa with an international and immediate response that’s efficient and well funded — and coordinated by the World Health Organization and the United Nations — it could turn into one of the gravest pandemics in the history of humanity,” Cuban leader Raúl Castro said.
Almost 9,000 people have been affected and 4,493 have died since the latest Ebola outbreak began in West Africa, the Center for Disease Control reported. The center also confirmed an Ebola case in the Democratic Republic of Congo but said it was not related to the West African cases in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
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Even as Europe and the United States have had home-grown cases, Latin America and the Caribbean have been spared thus far.
Even so, some nations have instituted travel bans and stepped up screening efforts.
Cuba has also been actively supporting West African efforts. On Monday, Castro said his nation has 4,000 medical workers in 32 countries in Africa who are being tasked with trying to control the outbreak.
Cuba has a long history of sending medical workers around the globe — making it one of its principal foreign policy vehicles.
In the Americas, Cuba has 45,952 health workers, including 23,158 doctors, who will help fight any potential outbreak in the region, Castro said.
He also said the island was willing to work with its longtime foe the United States.
“We should avoid any politicization of this severe problem that distracts us from our fundamental objective, which is to help face this epidemic in Africa and prevent it in other regions,” he said, according to a transcript of his speech published by state-run Granma newspaper.
U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf stopped short of saying some sort of U.S.-Cuba cooperation would be possible, but she acknowledged the island’s contribution.
“The fact that such a small country is providing so many resources — more than many other countries, quite frankly — is a significant contribution,” she said.
At the close of the summit, specialists and the health ministers of member countries were asked to hammer out specific strategies to prevent and confront Ebola. Those recommendations will be presented to the meeting of ALBA heads of state Nov.4.
ALBA-TCP, or The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America — Peoples’ Trade Treaty, was founded by Cuba and Venezuela in 2001. It now includes Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Ecuador, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Saint Lucia. Haiti is an observer to the group.
Haitian President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe also attended the summit. Along with Colombia, Haiti has issued a travel ban on anyone who has visited an Ebola-stricken West African nation in the last 28 days.
“We also asked for special attention for Haiti and support for our plan,” Lamothe said of the travel ban, which some health experts say may be counterproductive.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who attended Monday’s meeting, urged his colleagues to prepare themselves for the Ebola threat and said the region needs to begin producing medication to treat the virus. He also called for a regional public health campaign.
“We need to know more than the spectacle they present on television,” he said.