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By: Tom Fawthrop

More than two months after the quake, the 135-strong Cuban team sees up to 1,000 patients a day at two field hospitals set up in the earthquake zone, 30km from Jogyakarta.

Nearby, there are crushed houses and rubble - ugly reminders of the earthquake that killed more than 6,000 people and destroyed 100,000 homes.

The Cubans are the last hope for many Indonesians given the scant primary health care services provided by the government in Jakarta.

But it is not only here in Java that they are playing an important role - Cuban medical teams have quietly assumed a major role in global humanitarian relief operations usually seen as the domain of wealthy nations.

"Most important is the relationship between doctors and patients," explains Cuban doctor Oscar Putol, who works in the Intensive Care Unit at the Gantiwarno field hospital. "The patients trust us - they appreciate we are not just doctors, we are also human beings."

Khalida Ahmad of UNICEF, who witnessed Cuban teams working in the Pakistan emergency, agrees: "They treat patients like people, not just cases. Everyone I spoke to from the affected areas was so grateful. They felt they could always go to the Cuban doctors to ask a question, despite language difficulties."

Most of the Cubans had previous experience in Indonesia and Sri Lanka helping survivors of the massive tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean in December 2004.

Regional health coordinator Dr Ronny Rockito in Klaten is enthusiastic about the impact of Cuban aid.

"I appreciate the Cuban medical team. Their style is very friendly. Their medical standard is very high. The Cuban hospitals are fully complete and it's free, with no financial support from our government. We give our special thanks to Fidel Castro," he says.

Source: BBC News

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