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Without Borders: North Africa and the Middle East on the Cuban Collaborative Map (II)

colaboracion-medica-cubaAlthough diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in 1974, constituting the first country in the Persian Gulf to recognize the Cuban Revolution, the links between Cuba and Kuwait acquired real strength after the opening of the Arab embassy in Havana in 2010 [1].

Among the priorities of this relationship are: culture, economy, health and environment. One of the institutions of greatest prominence in the balance of cooperation is the Kuwait Fund for Arab Development[2], from which the Caribbean island has been able to access soft loans with a payment range of up to 20 years and, in addition, 2 percent interest.

In this way, considerable resources have been invested in the repair or expansion of Cuban aqueduct systems, such as those in Santiago de Cuba and Holguín, allowing for the improvement of hydraulic services that benefit almost 600,000 people. We should also add the funds allocated for the rehabilitation of the aqueducts and sewage system in Havana, under a credit of 75 million dollars [3]

However, the field of diplomatic action is also expanding towards a multilateral vision of international relations, since the two States exchange in forums of great importance in favor of an alternative political position in the world, such as: the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 plus China.

As for the medical field, in 2010, after the opening of the embassy, an agreement was signed that allowed the sending of Cuban doctors to that part of the world; even, the exchanges have been more comprehensive, since in the scientific-medical field, the collaboration and visit of personnel from the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology of Cuba to that country has been patented, as well as the implementation of Cuban medicines such as Heberprot-P, useful to fight diabetic foot ulcers, in Kuwaiti patients.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, 96 Cuban doctors, 198 nurses and 4 specialists from other branches of medicine worked in Kuwait [4]. However, Cuba and Kuwait have continued to potentially strengthen collaborative links. In the context of the current coronavirus pandemic, both nations endorsed a new agreement directed toward the health sector [5].

By early June 2020, nearly 300 additional health sector workers had arrived in the Arab State, in a team comprised of doctors of various specialties and nurses.

The recognition and appreciation for the gesture came from the high political officials: Ministers of Health and Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, who, together with the Cuban Ambassador in that country, were present at the welcome ceremony.

This Memorandum of Understanding will allow the Cubans to stay in the nation for about a semester and mainly in the intensive care of the patients in worse condition. When this brigade arrived, the Arab country already counted more than 30,650 infected and more than 450 deaths; most of the cases come from undocumented workers, specifically from Egypt, Bangladesh and India.

Cuba and Qatar: closeness despite distances

The State of Qatar is currently one of the Arab countries with the greatest ties to Cuba. Political-diplomatic relations between both peninsular states were established in December 1989. An important event in these relations was the official visit to that country by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro in May 2001, which was also reciprocated with visits by high-ranking Qatari leaders to Cuba. In all these years, both parties have defended the contact in diverse branches: trade, finance, culture, sports, health, air and sea transport.

However, the links in the area of health have been the most significant and broadest; this is demonstrated by the construction and inauguration in 2012 of the Cuban Hospital in Dukhan[1]. Some 500 Cuban collaborators work in this center, with high standards of quality in services (more than 25 specialties) that are destined not only to the residents of the territory, but also to immigrants, expatriates, diplomats, etc.

It is a facility that has some 75 beds and seven operating rooms and most of its patients come from the western region of the country. However, work continues on the extension of departments and new services such as: the opening of night clinics, laser eye surgery, services for dental prosthesis, orthopedics and rehabilitation.

In 2016, the hospital began performing bariatric surgery (for body weight loss); by 2017 it had performed some 176.
In 2008 and 2018, several agreements were signed between the Hamad Medical Corporation and the Cuban Medical Services to develop joint research in scientific matters.

At the same time, the Qatari would be beneficiaries of Cuban products such as Heberprot-P. According to statistical data[3] on the levels of care at the Cuban hospital in Dukhan, it can be stated that there has been a substantial increase in medical consultations and in the number of patients seeking specialized medical treatment here. For example, in 2017 the number of outpatients reached over 74,300, while admissions reached over 4,500. Meanwhile, surgical care grew from over 250 in 2012 to some 3,100 in 2017.

In relation to Covid-19, The Cuban Hospital was designated as one of the centers in charge of critical treatments for the most complicated cases in the face of the pandemic, along with other important centers such as the Communicable Disease Centre, the Mesaieed Hospital, as well as Ras Laffan Hospital.

At the same time, it is the medical building dedicated to the intensive care of pregnant women, newborns with positive diagnosis[5] and also, destined to emergency operations. Even cultural differences have not marked distance in this collaboration.

There is a program [6] that prioritizes translation services from Spanish and Arabic in line with a greater understanding between patients (mostly Arabs) and Cuban doctors. It is quantified an approximate figure of 2 thousand patients benefited with this initiative, which is fundamental for the mutual doctor-patient understanding.

The then Cuban Ambassador in Qatar, Eumelio Caballero Rodríguez, highlighted in 2019 that

“this hospital, which constitutes the jewel of the collaboration between both countries, has become a medical center of reference in the whole Gulf region, receiving several recognitions from important international institutions for the excellence of its care” [7].
Havana – Riyadh: agreements and bilateral exchanges

The political-diplomatic relations between both countries were officially patented in April 2011[1] with the opening of the embassy in Havana. As a result of this fact, there has been a deepening of bilateral cooperation in various sectors. All this has been possible thanks to the aid endorsed by the Saudi Development Fund, which has offered financial support to the island.

Among the lines with the greatest Saudi investment in Cuba, the hydraulic sector stands out, whose system of aqueducts and sewers, specifically in Havana and Cárdenas (Matanzas), were repaired with an investment of some 32 million dollars.[2] Likewise, another 40 million[3] were destined for the same area, in the province of Camagüey.

Important credits have also been offered for restoration projects in the Historical Center of Old Havana[4]. In cultural matters, bilateral ties have been manifested in events such as the International Book Fair of Havana, where important works of Saudi nationality have been presented. Likewise, a donation was made to Cuba of Arabic language laboratories (with Cuban graduated personnel), as well as the financing for the construction of a mosque in the Havana capital.

As for the health sector, the collaboration is mutual, since Saudi scientists and doctors have also visited Cuba in order to establish a greater connection with Cuban scientific results.

Likewise, in the field of biotechnology, the use of the Cuban medicine Heberprot-P has been commercialized in order to safeguard the life of diabetic patients. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was already the implementation of bilateral agreements in the field of health, as was the case of the Executive Cooperation Program signed by the Ministers of Health of both countries [5].

The number of Cuban collaborators in Saudi Arabia is in the order of 220 (2019), including doctors, nurses and other specialists [6] As can be seen, Cuba’s political-diplomatic links with the countries of the North African and Middle Eastern sub-regions have been strengthened in recent years. Bilateral cooperation in the area of health is one of its most significant aspects, but so is the continuation of medical training in Cuba for students, mostly from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Palestine.

1] Relations between Cuba and Saudi Arabia are special. March 14, 2017. Available at:
2] Ibid.
3] Ibid.
4] Saudi Arabia and Cuba continue pledge to increase trade cooperation and strengthen political ties. January 22, 2019. Available at:
5] Saudi Arabia and Cuba continue pledge to increase trade cooperation and strengthen political ties.
6] Ibid.
[1] Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba. Disponible en:
[2] Ídem.
[3] El hospital cubano ve un fuerte aumento en las visitas de los pacientes. 20 de febrero de 2018. Disponible en:
[4] Ídem
[5] Hospital cubano designado para casos de maternidad con COVID 19. 7 de junio de 2020. Disponible en:
Más de 2.000 pacientes se benefician de los servicios de idiomas cada mes en el hospital cubano. 25 de agosto de 2019. Disponible en:,000-patients-benefit-from-language-services-every-month-at-Cuban-Hospital
[7] Ídem.

[1] Admirable colaboración entre Kuwait y Cuba. 6 de marzo de 2019. Disponible en:

[2] Ídem

[3] Ídem

4] Enfrentan en Kuwait Covid 19 con apoyo de brigada médica cubana. Disponible en: _COPY4��dica-cubana

El contingente médico cubano de la Brigada Henry Reeve llega a Kuwait. Disponible en:

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