Vienna, Austria, February 6, 2015. The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) has signed a US$400,000 grant agreement with Cuba to support Cuban medical brigades deployed for Ebola treatment/containment missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
The agreement was signed by OFID Director-General, Mr Suleiman J Al-Herbish and HE Ileana Núñez Mordoche, Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba.
UN Under-Secretary General, Dr Kandeh Yumkella, was a special guest at the signing ceremony. Himself a native of Sierra Leone, Yumkella praised OFID for being one of the first development organizations to respond to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Ebola emergency response plan in August 2014. He pointed out that OFID had extended its support—a grant of US$500,000—“even before WHO had declared Ebola a public health emergency of international concern.”
Yumkella asserted: “OFID and Cuba are sending a strong message to the world that Ebola is far from over. The international community cannot become complacent.” According to WHO’s most recent Ebola Situation Report, the total number of Ebola cases has soared to over 22,000.
Dr Yumkella is a strong advocate in the fight against Ebola. He was assigned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to raise awareness of the epidemic and was instrumental in orchestrating OFID’s first grant to WHO to tackle Ebola.
Ms Mordoche thanked OFID for its ongoing support to her country over the past 13 years and lauded the institution’s solidarity not just with Cuba, but “with its brothers in Africa.”
Mr Al-Herbish assured Ms Mordoche of OFID’s continued support to Cuba’s socioeconomic development. He spoke of his admiration for Cuba’s physicians and their determination to remain in high-outbreak areas until the disease was contained, despite personal risk. While many NGOs and physicians had left endemic areas for fear of infection, Cuba’s medical team had no such intentions, he said. Only recently, the Cuban medical brigade was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize—a move that was unanimously approved by the Annual Conference of Norwegian Unionists in Trondheim.