What We Know about US Humanitarian Aid to Cuba

Pinar del Rio, Cuba, after Hurricane Ian hit. Photo: Claudio Pelaez Sordo / Facebook.

By El Toque

HAVANA TIMES – Emergency humanitarian aid from the US Government to Cuba includes approximately two million USD in supplies, to help the people affected after Hurricane Ian swept through the country.

This aid will be given to “independent NGOs” that have experience on the ground and are working on the island,” a high-ranking official from the Biden Administration explained to Associated Press (AP); with the intention for this aid to go directly to those affected.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will oversee the shipment of this aid, which is meant to provide services in Cuba. The aid “won’t go to the Government and will not be supplied in monetary form or as coupons to the Cuban population,” the US Government official explained.

Meanwhile, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Cuba’s foreign minister, thanked the offer for humanitarian aid and explained that this will be distributed on the island by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

This is the first time the Cuban Government is accepting humanitarian aid from the US in the wake of devastation caused by natural disasters, although this offer of help isn’t unprecedented.

President George W. Bush offered assistance to Cuba on many occasions after tropical storms hit the island. In November 2001, Hurricane Michelle caused major damage in Cuba and Washington offered humanitarian aid via NGOs. The ambassador at the time, Felipe Perez Roque, declined the offer; but he instead asked for an exception to be made and for Cuba to be able to purchase food this time only. According to William LeoGrande, this one-off purchase turned into a trade relationship that still continues today, where the Cuban Government purchases US food products, spending hundreds of millions of USD per year. 

The Bush Administration also offered aid in 2004 and 2005. Havana refused for this aid to reach the country via non-governmental channels. In 2008, after five storms hit Cuba, Bush sped up the process for licenses to provide private humanitarian aid and offered millions of US in bilateral aid that the Cuban Government also rejected.

During their own time in office, former US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump offered aid after natural disasters struck Cuba and they were also rejected by the Cuban Government.

After Hurricane Ian hit last month, the European Union announced on October 8th 2022 that it would send a million euros to Cuba to help victims. Aid has also come to Cuba from other countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, and Argentina.

The Japanese Red Cross Society donated five million yen in cash (33,500 USD), after an appeal made by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to help victims after Hurricane Ian swept through western Cuba.


Despite the Cuban Government’s accusations against citizens and organizations in Cuba of being “mercenaries” for receiving funding from USAID, it has also turned to the agency’s services for aid that are received and managed by governmental institutions.

On September 13, 2022, the US Department of State and USAID transferred 43 PPE outfits for the Cuban firefighter brigade after the fire at the Matanzas Super Tanker Oil Depot, which resulted in 17 fatalities and dozens of people injured.

According to Diario de Cuba, “information in an email dated September 14, said the Cuban Government accepted the helping hand extended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

During the Ebola outbreak in Africa in 2014, Cuban medical personnel sent to Liberia worked on the frontline of USAID’s 17 Ebola Treatment Units, built by the US Army.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

3 thoughts on “What We Know about US Humanitarian Aid to Cuba

  • I hope Ron Byrdges can answer this: As a result of the US Embargo, what resources, food, medicine, technology, etc. is Cuba unable to obtain from their fellow authoritarian regimes? How exactly has Cuba “lost” anything?

  • Reading this article it is not clear to me what your point is. The U.S. embargo/blockage has cost Cuba billions and Cuba has offered the U.S. assistance at different times. You can be sure that when the USAID is given to Cuban individuals it is not out of the generosity of their heart.

  • How much did Russia, North Korea and china offer Cuba ??. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer as they say.

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