Cuba Receives Donations to Face Food & Medical Shortages

The Cuban government is highlighting the fact that many governments and organizations are sending donations as a sign that Cuba is not alone.  Photo: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Some donations from different countries will be distributed in provinces for free.


HAVANA TIMES – With the recent arrival of the Papaloapan ship from Mexico, the third navy ship in a week, Cuba continues to receive donations of food, supplies, and medical equipment as a palliative in the face of its food and medical crisis amidst a sharp outbreak of COVID-19.

Coming from countries such as Russia, Vietnam, China, Bolivia and Mexico, food donations will be delivered to different provinces at no cost, so they can cover municipal and provincial needs, according to a public announcement from the minister of Domestic Trade, Betsy Diaz, on July 28th.

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel expressed his gratitude in the name of Cuba, thanking governments and countries that had sent aid at the worst moment in Cuba’s fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with the Delta variant giving rise to unprecedented infection levels in the country.

On the last day of July, the director of Epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, Francisco Duran, announced that 87 people had died in Cuba, the highest figure yet, including three pregnant women and a 12-year-old girl. [The figure on August 3 was 98 deaths.]

On that day, 9747 new cases were reported, 872 more than the previous day, which represents the highest figures in a single day ever since the beginning of the pandemic, and 1628 of these new cases were children.

It is estimated that the figure of new COVID-19 cases reported every day could exceed 10,000 in August in the country of 11.2 million people.

The Donations

Cuban authorities are highlighting donations as a sign that Cuba is not alone, in the face of its failed agricultural policy. The latest donations come from Russia, Mexico, China, Viet Nam and Bolivia.

Under Russian president Vladimir Putin’s orders, two AN-124 Ruslan military cargo planes arrived in Cuba on July 25th, with over 88 tons of humanitarian aid including cooking oil, canned meat, flour, other food items, PPE and over a million masks.

Navy ships from the Mexican fleet transported donations from this country’s government: the BAL-02 Libertador transported 612.5 tons of food – powdered milk, beans, flour, canned tuna and cooking oil -, medicines and oxygen; meanwhile, the Jose Maria Morelos II tanker ship arrived in Havana with 100,000 barrels of diesel for supplying electricity to hospitals.

On July 31st, a plane from the Mexican Air Force also arrived in the Cuban capital with 11 tons of medical supplies and disposable materials.

Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, called in recent days for UN member states to translate their rejection of the US blockade into concrete actions in favor of the Cuban people.

In its capacity as the president pro tempore of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Mexico donated approximately 800,000 syringes with needles, as part of the CELAC Cooperation Plan against COVID-19 and in response “to the pressing regional and global need to continue to counteract the effects of the pandemic.”

On July 31st, 30 high-performance ventilators arrived in Cuba from China, as part of a first donation of medical supplies. According to news reports, the rest of the supplies, especially protective equipment, will arrive in upcoming weeks.

In the meantime, 12,000 tons of rice donated from Vietnam will also arrive soon, a display of the special fraternal ties and solidarity that unite both countries, which was emphasised by the Asian country’s government in its announcement.

Mexican Navy Ships transported donations to Cuba

On July 30th, Cuba received a shipment from Bolivia with 20 tons of medical and safety equipment, as well as food, coinciding with president Luis Arce’s announcement to send aid to the Caribbean country.

The government press reported that a shipment of food arrived in Cuba from Venezuela, on July 31st. They have also mentioned Nicaragua among donors.

Magalys Estrada, the general director of economic collaboration at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, has made press statements saying that international donations have been arriving since 2020, and that bank accounts have been set up to receive financial aid from abroad, which is to be used in efforts to tackle the pandemic.

By the end of June 2021, Cuba had received 543 donation offers from 51 countries, including from governments such as China, Vietnam, Venezuela, Russia, Canada, Switzerland, Angola, South Africa, India, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Belize, Belgium, Italy, Malta, Spain, Peru and Nicaragua, as well as from foreign companies, solidary organizations and Cubans living abroad.

Donor companies include MCV Comercial (Germany, 14 ambulances), Blancafort (Spain, meat items), Yutong, the Jack Ma Foundation & Alibaba, Shenzhen Huawei (China, PPE), Vimariel and Viglacera LLC. (Vietnam, PPE and hygiene and food items) and Astrazeneca (UK, PPE).

[Nobody knows how long the country of 11.2 million inhabitants will be able to survive off donations as a replacement for paid imports and local production.]

Controversy on social media

As is happening more and more frequently now with public and private events, the distribution of canned meat on July 30th, coming from Russia, to 15 out of the 18 districts in Pinar del Rio municipality sparked an immediate reaction on social media, which many news platforms then echoed.

While some Internet users thanked the gesture from Vladimir Putin’s government, others confused Russian food regulations for canned meat issued in 2013, with the expiry date and accused them of sending expired cans, saying that the date found on the packaging was the expiry date and not the production date.

A statement released by Cuba’s Ministry of Domestic Commerce refuted these allegations and called these rumors fake. It explained that the date 031117 printed on the bottom of the can was the production date and that it is printed, in the original language, and that the can expires five years after production.

Cuba’s ruling trade body, which is responsible for distribution and delivery via its network of neighborhood bodega stores selling subsidized goods, pointed out that “the product was checked by health authorities at the border in order to determine whether they did in fact comply with all of the requirements before being sent to the population.”

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

4 thoughts on “Cuba Receives Donations to Face Food & Medical Shortages

  • Food insecurity in Cuba is a chronic problem. It’s not going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s likely to get worse. Will these donor countries continue to send supplies on a weekly basis? Monthly basis? If not, when these supplies run out, what then?

  • For sixty two years, Cuba has been dependent upon support by others.

  • As a Canadian who loves Cuba & its people, I must say the situation in Cuba raised feelings of worry & helplessness. I am appreciative of your article which brought me a sense of relief knowing all about the donations of essential goods, etc. Most importantly, thank you to the supporting countries & governments, compagnies & organisations for making a crucial difference at this critical time in Cuba.

  • I would not doubt that the ‘food supplies’ in Cuban family reserves have expired too. The expiration date is usually the Best Use Date, but the food is still in good condition to use for maybe up to 25 years. The Cuban Government would not even have said donations it it had not been for the 11 JULY protest. Glad to hear they are grateful for said donations.

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