Canadians have donated generously to the Cuba for Haiti campaign in the wake of the devastating hurricane last January that left close to 250,000 dead.
The campaign has raised nearly $143,000 since it was launched shortly after the hurricane.
“We believe that this kind of unprecedented and invaluable help which Cuba has been giving Haiti for 11 years deserves to be supported as strongly as possible,” said University of Toronto Professor Emeritus Dr. Keith Ellis, who is the Cuba for Haiti campaign coordinator.
At a press conference hosted by the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) last week to provide an update on the fundraising campaign, Ellis said all of the funds have gone directly to supporting the Haitian people.
“The response by Canadians has been overwhelming since the earthquake,” he said. “What we have seen, however, which I think is unfortunate, is that most of that money has been channeled through the Red Cross. One hundred per cent of those funds never go directly to the people they are intended for. Groups like the Red Cross have tremendous administrative costs which are deducted. They also look after themselves and make sure they have funds in reserve.”
Ellis encouraged Canadians to continue making donations to the Cuba for Haiti campaign through the Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund.
“This campaign was set up because we know that the only way to multiply help is to give it to Cuba which has experience and is morally and ethically prepared,” he said. “Every single penny given goes to the Cuban team on the ground helping Haitians.”
At the time of the earthquake, there were 302 medical personnel in Haiti and they immediately responded to the crisis, helping 1,109 Haitians in the first 24 hours after the earthquake.
Cuba has also committed to build a new health care system in Haiti.
“This, of course, is a very expensive undertaking,” Ellis said. “The cost that Cuba has incurred in Haiti since the earthquake is almost $400 million, but they keep on doing their work and sharing whatever they have. What we give to Cuba is multiplied by Cuba. Their doctors and other medical personnel are not highly paid and the salary scale is low. Their work is based on motivation to save and develop the country and to serve other people. In fact, Cuba is the only country that has given substantial and altruistic aid to Haiti.”
CNC co-chair and longtime Cuba Solidarity activist Isaac Saney also attended the press conference at A Different Booklist.
“We decided in our own small way that was the way we could make a meaningful contribution to Haiti,” said Saney. “Our organization has become very important, not only for helping the Haitian people because all the money has gone to the medial mission there, but also, specifically, it is helping shatter the stereotypes and many of the negative debates and ideas people have imbibed because of the massive propaganda against Cuba.”
Cuba has a special emergency unit – The Henry Reeve Medical Brigade – that responds to crises.