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Cuban Eye Care Programme Extended for Another Year

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Contact: Prime Minister's Press Secretary

Monday, December 19, 2005 - The Government of St. Lucia has thanked the Government of Cuba for extending the popular Free Eye Care Programme for another year.

Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony made the disclosure last Friday evening at a special farewell reception held for departing Cuban Ambassador, Mr. Victor Ramirez.

Speaking at the reception held at his official residence, the Prime Minister said St. Lucia was very thankful to Cuba for the programme, “which has already benefited over a thousand St. Lucians from all walks of life.”

He said the programme was quite popular with St. Lucians throughout the country, “as it particularly assisted many persons in communities around the island who needed urgent medical intervention, but were unable to pay the high cost of private eye care.”

The Prime Minister noted that several hundred St. Lucians had been treated in Cuba during the short time the programme lasted “and there were still hundreds more earmarked to go to Havana for treatment.”

Dr Anthony said that by extending the programme for another year, Cuba was making it possible for many more St. Lucians to benefit from it.

He therefore called on “those St. Lucians in need of optical care, but who missed the first opportunity,” to make use of this extended period to ensure they got examined and treated.

The Prime Minister said the eye care programme, which is also known as the Miracle Project, was “only one aspect of Cuba's continuing assistance to St. Lucia in the health sector.” He noted that Cuba continues to train and provide doctors and, thanks to Cuba as well, “St. Lucia will be self-sufficient in doctors by the time the new national hospital is completed.”

The PM also recalled that Cuba is assisting with the new psychiatric facility which is being constructed along the Millennium Highway, while continuing to provide scholarships for St. Lucians “in several areas important for the future development of our country.”

He also noted that while Cuba is providing all this assistance to St. Lucia and other CARICOM countries, it never once asked for anything in return.

In this regard, he said: “Never once has Ambassador Ramirez ever called, or asked me or any of the Members of Cabinet for any special favour in return for Cuba's generous assistance.”

Ambassador Ramirez thanked the Government of St. Lucia for the hospitality he enjoyed during his four-and-a-half years here and promised that Cuba will continue to assist St. Lucia and other CARICOM territories, never mind its own economic difficulties.

Ambassador Ramirez also promised to convey the thanks of the Government and people of St. Lucia to the Government and People of Cuba.

December 19, 2005

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