Medical Aid for Santiago after Hurricane Sandy

Last week, two 40-foot containers of medical aid were pulled away from the Global Links dock and started on the journey to hospitals in Santiago, Cuba. The hospitals suffered considerable damage from Hurricane Sandy, and need medical supplies in order to care for their community. Global Links was in a position to help.

Global Links had recently received “pandemic kits” containing gloves, masks and other essential items, as well as flu vaccine kits, and barrels of soap. All these items were processed by Global Links, and the materials that Santiago hospitals needed were packed and loaded on the trucks, along with linens and other items.

After a disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, it is essential to donate only the materials that are needed and immediately usable. Sending unnecessary items clogs the “pipeline” and impedes the arrival of usable aid, eats up time and other resources to sort and allocate non-essential items, and can create a disposal problem if some materials are not usable at all.

Communication is key in any humanitarian endeavor, and Global Links, one of the few US charities licensed to work in Cuba, is collaborating with MEDICC and with the Pan American Health Organization  (PAHO) to ensure that all of our donations are appropriate and useful.

Please consider supporting recovery efforts in Santiago with a donation to Global Links. Two more shipments to Santiago are planned before the end of the year and we need your help to cover the shipping costs. Your support can make those shipments a reality.

Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city, was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

First Two Medical Aid Shipments Headed to Santiago

Since late October, Global Links has been working with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)MEDICC and Cuban health officials to determine what assistance we could provide based on hurricane damage assessments. PAHO is the regional arm of the World Health Organization, and as such has representation in every country in this hemisphere.  Its sole purpose is to support public health, and disaster recovery efforts in Cuba are focused on rehabilitating the health sector.

Women repairing the street in Santiago.

Thanks to generous donors, Global Links will be loading the first two tractor-trailer shipments of medical aid destined for Santiago, Cuba, next week. We will be including hospital linens, anti-bacterial soap, basic medical, and infection control supplies.

PAHO reports that approximately 226,000 homes were damaged and at least 17,000 destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, which caused 11 deaths, affected three million people, and damaged 746 health facilities in the eastern region. The province of Santiago de Cuba is the most affected, with 369 damaged health facilities.

In Santiago de Cuba, 18 hospitals are damaged and are partially functioning. There is severe damage in the Psychiatric Hospital, which had to be evacuated; in the Pediatric Hospital, and Siboney Primary Health Center.

Help is still needed for Global Links’ next shipments of medical furnishings, equipment, and medical books to replace those damaged by the storm, along with additional essential supplies to enable the medical staff to provide care for their patients. The hospitals affected by the hurricane serve over one million people. Thank you for helping them to recover.

Crews work to rebuild the city.

Donate online, or make your check payable to: Global Links (simply note SANTIAGO in the Comments section)

Give by phone! Text GIVE 12012 to 80088 to donate $10 to Hurricane Sandy Relief for Santiago, Cuba. Message and data rates may apply. Only works for US mobile phones.

Hold a fundraising event to gather financial contributions from friends, members of your organization, co-workers and the general public. Contact us at: 412-361-3424 or by email if you would like a speaker in the Pittsburgh area or assistance in promoting your event.

Collecting Scrubs is Only the First Step

Recently, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore responded enthusiastically to Save Your Scrubs, donating 810 pounds of gently used medical uniforms. Next, a group from the International Women’s Association of Pittsburgh came in to begin the job of sorting through them, making matched sets, grouping by size, and packing them for donation.

Scrubs are an important way to limit the spread of infectious material, protecting both healthcare workers and their patients. In the hospitals with which Global Links works, budgets rarely provide for scrubs, and our partners have been requesting them regularly. Scrubs will be included in our upcoming hurricane relief shipment to Cuba.

Global Links accepts all scrubs, men’s and women’s, tops and bottoms, in sizes up through X-Large that don’t have one’s name embroidered onto them. Institutional names are acceptable. Scrubs must be clean and in good condition, with no rips or stains.

The scrubs that Global Links’ overseas partners are unable to use- because of sizing, mismatched pairs or other issues – are given to a local volunteer organization that makes them into children’s quilts for donation.

Small donations of scrubs can be mailed or dropped off at

Global Links
4809 Penn Ave. #2,
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Attn: Save Your Scrubs

For larger, institutional collections, email Hayley Brugos or call 412.361.3424, ext. 213.

Your additional donation of $25 will help us deliver these scrubs to where they are desperately needed. To make a secure donation via our website, click here and put “scrubs” in the comment field.

After Sandy

This morning, as we check the news for damage reports, contact friends and family in areas hard-hit by Sandy, and hope things don’t get too much worse, our friends in Cuba are a few days ahead of us, picking up and cleaning up. Sandy struck Santiago de Cuba five days ago, plowing into the second largest city in the country and destroying homes, ruining infrastructure, and causing 11 deaths.

It will take many months, if not years, for areas along the United States eastern seaboard to recover. The economic situation here and around the world has made things more difficult at home, and this storm has added to it.

So why is it important to reach out to Cubans, when we have troubles enough of our own? Because even with all the problems we have, we still have many more resources than most of the countries in this hemisphere – indeed in the world.  I never looked at helping as an either/or kind of thing.  We really can help the people here and the people there.  We’re blessed to be able to do both.

Because of their geographic location and the nature of the storm, when and where and how it hit, and the continued U.S. blockade against Cuba, more Cubans are homeless. Major institutions such as the medical school in Santiago, and some of the hospitals have been badly damaged. As bad as it is in parts of the US, it is worse there.

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Santiago, after the storm

For this reason, Global Links is working with MEDICC (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba) along with the Pan American Health Organization, to provide both emergency and long-term aid to help the community recover from this latest disaster. Medical supplies, chlorine tablets to address a compromised water system, and hospital furnishings are being packed for shipment, along with a supply of crucial medical texts to replace those destroyed by the storm.  Global Links is one of the very few organizations licensed by the US government to work in Cuba, and we have been working there since 1994.

I urge you to do what you can for everyone damaged by this terrible storm. Local organizations such as the Red Cross need and deserve our support. And, while you are giving, please support Global Links’ efforts to help Cuba recover from the storm too.

People often comment on how much smaller the world is now – enhanced communication techniques, incredible television images, and the internet bring a new awareness of conditions we may never see first hand. Cuba is a neighbor in need– a close neighbor – and they need our help now. Please donate through our web site, and write “Santiago” in the comment field.

If you want to hold a fundraiser to benefit our efforts in Cuba, we would be happy to help promote it. Please contact our deputy director for assistance.

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The beautiful city of Santiago.

Shipment to Cuba Supports Wide Range of Services in Pinar del Rio

When Program Officer Marisol Valentin visited Hospital Abel Santamaria in the Pinar del Rio province of Cuba last year, she found a brand new intensive care unit for cardiac patients and for those at high risk for cerebral damage, as well as a new waiting area for the families of hospitalized patients.  She also found a vast need for supplies and furnishings. Because this large hospital has a long list of services offered, they needed a variety of supplies, ranging from items for critical care to barrels of soap.

Global Links’ shipment last week to Abel Santamaria included both general supplies as well as very specific sutures and autosutures, mattresses, IV poles and wheelchairs. The hospital serves a population of 530,000, performs 70% of the surgeries and attends 90% of the births in the province, and runs a daily clinic that sees 1000 patients a day.

The size and scope of this hospital make them an excellent partner for Global Links because there are many areas in which we can be of help. And the care they take both of patients and their families makes this a hospital with which we are very proud to work.

Marisol Valentin, left, with staff at Abel Santamaria during her last assessment trip.

Please support our program in Cuba.