Four Palauan medical students in Cuba brave the challenges of working and studying in a foreign country during a world pandemic.

The four students, Demei Yobech, Ngesmaus Hosei, Maia Siang and Lara Reklai are all medical students in different years of study in Cuba.  Yobech and Hosei are in Havanna and Lara Reklai is in a province that is about 8 hours away from Havana and while Maia Siang is about 12 hours away.

The country of Cuba has confirmed cases of COVID and has implemented a lockdown to contain and control COVID-19 virus.  As such it is not receiving any international parcels according to the students.  Everything they need have to be sourced locally and that is quite a challenge according to the students.  Basic necessities such as soap, detergent and toilet paper have been out of stock from the stores for sometimes.

Being on lockdown also means that only the police and the ambulances are on the road and military permission is needed to travel with personal transport.

According to Minister of Health Dr. Emais Roberts, Cuba, India, Seychelles, Russia and Sasakawa Foundation have reached out to help them.  Sasakawa Foundation is sending each student $250 dollars to pay for basic supplies.  Unfortunately, lockdown mean that they have not been able to access the supplies, especially those outside of Havana.  Fund transfer is restricted in terms of amount they can receive and the frequency of transactions.

When contacted, Lara Reklai, one of the students said that yes, she has received notice of the award but not the money nor the supplies.

The government provides them with 2 reusable masks per person if they are not in higher risk positions. Those in higher risk receive more protective gear.

Maia Siang who is in her 3rd year goes house to house interviewing people to assess whether or not they have symptoms. “we go house to house asking if anyone in the household present any upper respiratory symptoms, if they had any contact with people coming from the outside, how many people are 60 and over.  If they know medidas preventias to take against the virus.  If they present any symptoms, we take their names and report them to the policlinic and the doctor will be sent to go check and do the test.”

Lara Reklai says she only see those patients that have been tested negative for COVID.  Still they say they need more protective gear.  Ms. Reklai said she had to cut up her mom’s scrubs to make additional masks because their masks need to be change at least 8 times a day. They are saying though that they really need supplies like masks and gloves and alcohol sanitizers.

With assistance on the way, the challenge is still to get them to reach the students.

Cuba has 1000 confirmed cases, 314 recovered and 34 deaths.  Ms. Reklai said that the country’s Ministry of Health is very good and everyone is working hand in hand to contain and reduce the infections.