chapter  17
‘Non-DAC’ humanitarian actors
ByEmma Mawdsley
Pages 11

Among the many donor nations helping Haiti, Cuba and its medical teams have played a major role in treating earthquake victims. Public health experts say the Cubans were the fi rst to set up medical facilities among the debris and to revamp hospitals immediately after the earthquake struck. However, their pivotal work in the health sector has received scant media coverage. ‘It is striking that there has been virtually no mention in the media of the fact that Cuba had several hundred health personnel on the ground before any other country,’ said David Sanders, a professor of public health from Western Cape University in South Africa. … Before the earthquake struck, 344 Cuban health professionals were already present in Haiti, providing primary care and obstetrical services as well as operating to restore the sight of Haitians blinded by eye diseases. More doctors were fl own in shortly after the earthquake … However, in reporting on the international aid eff ort, Western media have generally not ranked Cuba high on the list of donor nations. … Richard Gott, The Guardian newspaper‘s former foreign editor and a Latin America specialist, explains: ‘Western media are programmed to be indiff erent to aid that comes from unexpected places. In the Haitian case, the media have ignored not just the Cuban contribution, but also the eff orts made by other Latin American countries.’ Brazil is providing $70mn in funding for 10 urgent care units, 50 mobile units for emergency care, a laboratory and a hospital, among other health services. Venezuela has cancelled all Haiti debt and has promised to supply oil free of charge until the country has recovered from the disaster. Western NGOs employ media offi cers to ensure that the world knows what they are doing … Cuban medical teams, however, are outside this predominantly Western humanitarianmedia loop and are therefore only likely to receive attention from Latin American media and Spanish language broadcasters and print media.3