by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Cuban general practitioner Yamilet Castaneda has taken up the challenge to confront COVID-19 outbreak far from home doing what she can best do: saving lives.
The 47-year-old doctor said she did not hesitate to say yes when asked about whether she could combat the rampant virus in South Africa.
"We receive training in working under pressure in highly risky areas. We are ready to make decisions in the field depending on the complexity of circumstances," Castaneda told Xinhua before heading to South Africa.
Up to date, South Africa has reported than 4,990 coronavirus cases with 93 deaths.
Castaneda is one of the founding members of Cuba's Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade specializing in disaster and medical relief. She has rich experience in working abroad, including Pakistan, Venezuela and Brazil.
Founded in 2005 by then Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, the Henry Reeve Brigade was created to provide health services to Americans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. city of New Orleans, only to be refused by the George W. Bush administration.
The Brigade was named after a young U.S. doctor who died in the 19th century fighting for Cuba's independence from Spanish colonial rule.
Rigoberto Adrian Castro, 30, a health technician from the central Cuban province of Camaguey, is also one of the Henry Reeve Brigade. He joined Castaneda to lend a hand in South Africa.
Castro said they are not superheroes, but people committed with the defense of values and principles such as solidarity and friendship, adding that "all lives matter."
Jorge Hidalgo, director of the Cuban Central Unit for Medical Collaboration, said the reputation of Cuban doctors and nurses is based on the development of Cuban preventive health system as well as the efforts and sacrifices they have made under very difficult conditions abroad.
Currently, 2,030 Cuban health professionals from the Henry Reeve medical contingent are working in 22 Latin American and Caribbean nations as well as in Africa and Europe to help fight the coronavirus.
The island country has called on the international community to beef up cooperation rather than isolation against the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Cuba criticized the United States for "threatening governments that request Cuba's medical assistance."
Cuban orthopedist Ana Maria Machado was part of the Henry Reeve medical brigade that helped the Chinese people 12 years ago after the 8.0-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake occured in southwestern China's province of Sichuan on May 12, 2008.
She said she is ready to join her colleagues to work abroad to battle the virus.
"We can go where requested, even to the United States. Solidarity does not recognize borders," she said.
Cuban authorities confirmed on Monday that 51 countries have requested medical assistance from the Henry Reeve medical contingent. Enditem