For the second year running, 200 young Colombians have travelled to Cuba to begin studying medicine in a further show of support by the Cuban government to Colombia’s peace process.
Whereas last year’s group was formed of people from low-income backgrounds, this time the medical students include former FARC combatants and conflict victims who have been granted free scholarships to attend medical school in Cuba. The island also hosted the 2012-2016 negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC which resulted in the signing of the peace agreement in November 2016.
Cuba has committed to providing medical education to 1,000 young Colombians over a five-year period, with 200 new students enrolling each year. Many of the students have prior medical experience from during the conflict, when fighting and illness required many FARC guerrillas to develop medical knowledge and skills.
‘I was always known for being good at healing people. Now I want to become a doctor so that I can help vulnerable people’, said former FARC medic Jhony Guependo.
Once their education is complete, it is hoped that the new doctors will be able to provide health services to communities long abandoned by central government and which have little access to hospitals, clinics and medical attention.