By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK A total of 20 newly arrived Cuban doctors and medical technologists were inducted into service with the Ministry of Health and Social Services on Saturday. The swearing-in ceremony was also a celebration to mark the 5th anniversary of the Cuban National Health Programme in Namibia. Cuban health professionals have assisted the Namibian health services as volunteers for the past five years under this programme, which is a personal initiative of Cuban President Fidel Castro. It was originally aimed at assisting Central and Latin American countries devastated by hurricane Mitch. The programme was later extended to include Africa and Asia and now includes 63 developing countries throughout the world. Many Cuban doctors were assisting Namibia long before September 23, 2001 when the programme was launched, but on a more ad-hoc basis. Over 600 Cuban medical personnel have assisted the Namibian health authorities over the years. At present, there are around 170 Cuban health workers in Namibia, distributed throughout the 13 regions of the country including remote corners of the Kavango, Karas and northern regions. The 170 volunteers include 50 general practitioners, 53 medical specialists and 67 medical technicians. Of this group, 98 are women and 72 men, with each group staying in Namibia for a two-year tour of duty. The Cuban medical personnel are all volunteers paid by the Cuban government, receiving only a subsistence allowance from the Namibian government. Cuba also has 21 specialists assisting the country in other fields including engineers, architects, geologists, biologists and agricultural and forestry experts. Six Cuban sports coaches working in Namibia returned home a few weeks ago after helping Namibia win medals in both national and international competitions.
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