Four years ago, Cuba and Jamaica embarked on a mission to provide desperately needed routine and critical eye care for people of Jamaica, and the Caricom region in general. The Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Project has, since its inception, screened some 20,000 patients, and performed over 4,000 eye surgeries to treat cataracts and other anomalies in patients who otherwise may never have received care. The joint effort brought a team of eye specialists, nurses, and necessary equipment from Cuba to establish the base clinic, while training teams of Jamaicans to operate the eye centers in the future. The opening of the Ophthamology Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston, brought an additional team of a doctor, seven nurses and three medical technicians from Cuba to provide ophthalmologic services specifically to the English-speaking Caribbean population in the region. Jamaica is fully hosting the Cuban staff at residences near the Kingston’s National Chest Hospital, where eye surgeries will be performed.
Cooperation between Cuba and Jamaica has spanned 37 years; a partnership that has been duplicated by Cuba with many other developing nations in Latin and Central America. Newly appointed Cuban ambassador to Jamaica Yuri Gala Lopez pledged his government’s continued assistance, indicating that last year has served to strengthen ties of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. Ambassador Gala Lopez remarked recently, “Nearly 300 Jamaican youths are now studying at Cuban universities free of charge, [while] 135 Cuban co-operators are presently supporting several bilateral programmes, especially in the fields of health and education.”
Jamaican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kenneth Baugh, expressed his country’s appreciation and hope for the continuation of the long-standing partnership. He stated at a reception in honor of the in-coming ambassador, “The Jamaican government looks forward to the opening of the center this month [January] as it will provide invaluable assistance, not only to Jamaicans, but to other Caribbean nationals who will come here for treatment.” Mr. Baugh commended Cuba for its strong support of its developing neighbors, aiding solidarity in Latin/Central American interdependence.
Cuban humanitarian efforts have been lauded by the U.N. in its report on nations flagged for inaction in areas of concern such as human rights and religious freedom.
This apparent contradiction surfaced at the 2009 General Assembly when the yearly petition to remove Cuba from the list of countries classified as “state sponsors of terrorism” again failed to garner a unanimous vote.