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The New Arab

Cuba sends $1 million worth of vaccines to Syria

Archive: Late Cuban leader Fidel Castro turned the island into a "medical superpower" [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 December, 2016

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A Cuban shipment of two tonnes of medicine worth nearly $1 million has arrived in Syria as a part of a deal between the two countries signed earlier this year.
A Cuban shipment of two tonnes of medicine worth nearly $1 million has arrived in Syria as a part of a deal between the two countries signed earlier this year.

The medical aid made up of 200,000 vaccines to combat meningitis worth $930,000 arrived in Syria on Sunday, state media reported.

The shipment was part of a deal signed between Syria and Cuba last April to settle debt owed to Syria by Cuba, as well as, part of contracts to import pharmaceutical products.

Cuba is renowned for exporting medical doctors to many countries as part of its foreign policy. Late leader Fidel Castro turned the island into a "medical superpower" after an exodus left just 3,000 doctors in the country.

Coverage for the most basic vaccines has plummeted in the war-torn country from 80 percent before the conflict to 41 percent in 2015, leaving millions of children unvaccinated.

As a result, the risk of vaccine-preventable disease mortality has increased and the country faces a high risk of epidemics as evident by recent outbreaks of polio, measles and meningitis.

In September, the World Health Organisation [WHO] said six suspected cases of meningitis had been identified in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya near Damascus.

WHO said at the time that several cases of meningitis were being reported every week.

Castro remained an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even after he stepped down from power in 2006. Meanwhile, regime ideologues have ironically identified the Cuban revolutionary as inspiration for their own battle.

Last month, Assad hailed Castro's "legendary resistance" to the embargo imposed by the US against Cuba in a statement marking the death of the revolutionary leader.

"The great leader Fidel Castro led his people's and his country's struggle against imperialism and hegemony for decades," Assad - whose regime is facing US sanctions - said in a message of condolences.

Cuba has maintained strong support for the Assad regime, and reportedly even sent military officials to Syria to provide logistic support for the regime's war efforts.

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