Cuba will send nearly 500 doctors to the Calabria region of southern Italy, Cuban state media reported this week, part of a broader program that sends surplus medics from the communist-run island to countries in need.
State-run media outlet Cubadebate said Calabria had been suffering a shortage of doctors since 2010, part of a countrywide healthcare crisis, and had been unable to fill the need any other way.
“All the regions are trying their best to hire doctors but are not finding any,” Cubadebate cited Calabrian President Roberto Occhiuto as saying. “This problem is much more serious in Calabria.”
Occhiuto separately confirmed the contract in a video posted on social media.
Cuba will send 497 doctors of various specialties to the region in the coming months, beginning in September, Cubadebate reported.
Around 40 countries across five continents, including Italy, received Cuban medics during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the island nation – home to just over 11 million inhabitants – has punched far above its weight in medical diplomacy.
Since its 1959 leftist revolution, Cuba has dispatched its “army of white coats” to disaster sites and disease outbreaks around the world in the name of solidarity. In the last decade, they have fought cholera in Haiti and Ebola in West Africa.
Cuba has exported doctors on more routine missions in exchange for cash or goods in recent decades, a top source of hard currency. The United States has criticized the program, saying labor conditions are exploitative, a charge Cuba denies.