More than two months after the earthquake that killed almost 6,000 people on Java, much of the world's international relief effort has wound down. An army of medics from countries including Italy, Japan, Poland and Pakistan have long returned home. But among the ruins of 100,000 homes, a team of doctors from one small Caribbean country is labouring to support the estimated 650,000 people affected by the quake in May. They are members of the Gantiwarno Cuban field hospital and they represent the human face of a vast commitment the tiny communist island has made to the humanitarian effort in the wake of many of the world's disasters. In Java, this most recent medical deployment is the last hope for many Indonesians who have basic access to the scant primary heath-care services. The medical village of tarpaulin tents represents a fully equipped field hospital with X-ray, laboratory analysis and surgery and other essential facilities. Despite hailing from a poor, politically isolated country, most of the Cuban medical team has had experience in Asia - two Cuban teams were deployed to help tsunami victims, one in Aceh and the other in Sri Lanka. Many of the doctors now in Indonesia were deployed in Pakistan Kashmir after the earthquake in October last year. The Gantiwarno Cuban field hospital is in an earthquake zone about 30km from Jogyakarta, a site still bearing the scars of the disaster. In Prambanan field hospital, Dr Luis Sandoval has few problems understanding the patients. Communication is good thanks to the translators - a band of volunteer interpreters, many of them Indonesian medical students. The two hospitals include 34 Cuban doctors as part of a medical team of 64 people, including nurses, laboratory specialists and technicians. About half of the doctors are female, an advantage in dealing with cultural sensitivities in Muslim countries, where women are reluctant to be thoroughly examined by a male doctor. 'Many ask why we are here,' said Dr Oscar Putol, who works in the intensive-care unit. 'It is about humanity and saving lives, we are here to help.' Long lines of Indonesians still queue every day outside the tents of the two Cuban hospitals. Inside the huge tent, several patients are examined by a team of family doctors wearing the clinical green uniforms usually associated with surgeons. The women wear traditional head scarves in keeping with the conservative Muslim dress code that prevails in rural areas. After the earthquake, thousands suffered broken bones, fractures and other injuries familiar to the experienced Cuban orthopaedic specialists and surgeons, veterans of several medical missions, including natural disasters in Haiti, Guatemala, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Cuba's major contribution to saving lives - it says it currently deploys 29,000 health workers in 68 countries across three continents - has been almost totally ignored by western media. 'Most important is the relationship between doctors and patients,' Dr Putol said. 'The patients trust us. People appreciate that we're not just doctors, but also humans.' Khalida Ahmad, of Unicef, agreed. 'They treat patients like people, not just cases. Everyone I spoke to from the affected areas were grateful. They felt they could always go to the Cuban doctors, despite language difficulties.' Near the consultation tent, Garwono was seeking information about when his father would receive a hernia operation. 'I accompanied my father to the Cuban hospital. We were surprised and grateful to see Cuban doctors,' Garwono said. 'Only one country, Cuba, has given health care to the Indonesian people for such a long time.' Patients may be referred to an orthopaedic specialist or gynaecologist, or sent first to the X-ray tent for the next stage in their treatment. A sign hanging outside another tent reads 'clinical laboratory'. Many victims say they have received no aid from government agencies, and the aid from Cuba, a country with less wealth than mineral-rich Indonesia, is greatly appreciated by health authorities. 'We were surprised that doctors from a poor country, a country so far away that we knew little about, would come here,' regional health co-ordinator Dr Ronny Rockito said. 'We can learn from the Cuban health system. People not affected by the earthquake are coming from Jogyakarta to get free treatment because they are too poor to pay. The people are glad it's free.' A head of the medical team estimated 47,000 patients had visited the hospital since it opened on June 6. As of earlier this month, 900 operations (350 were major surgery cases), 9,700 laboratory tests, 2,000 X-rays and 1,100 ultrasounds had been performed. But Cuba's motives for its vast aid team have been questioned. In the wake of last year's earthquake in Pakistan, the US embassy in Pakistan reportedly pressured President Pervez Musharraf's government to decline humanitarian aid from Havana. According to official data from Islamabad, 73 per cent of all patients were treated by Cuban doctors in 44 places. The Pakistan magazine Dawn reported that 'in many cases Cuban medical teams have been monitored by dozens of intelligence operatives fearing they might incite a revolution'. Similarly, the US government has been hostile to Cuban doctors helping out in East Timor and Indonesia. Dr Putol rejected any notion that Cuba has a political agenda. 'We're here purely out of humanitarian motives,' he said. Public health specialist Araceli Castro was in Cuba during Hurricane Katrina. 'Cuban doctors were ready to go to the US. It was admirable,' the Harvard University academic and WHO adviser said. 'But it was also very funny that this tiny country was ready to send help to the largest country in the world.'