Cuba asks the first time help from the World Food Program

Cuba asks for the first time help from the World Food Program

HAVANA, February 29. The Government of Cuba has requested aid for the first time through an official communication to the management of the World Food Program(WFP) due to the country’s difficulties in being able to continue providing milk to children under seven years of age.

As confirmed by the WFP to EFE, the executive management of this arm of the United Nations, which defines itself as “the largest humanitarian organization in the world,” received an official communication from the Government of Cuba and is already sending powdered milk to the island.

“We confirm that the WFP has received an official communication from the (Cuban) Government requesting support to continue the monthly delivery of one kilogram of milk for girls and boys under seven years of age throughout the country,” the WFP delegation indicated in writing in the island.

The UN program, which speaks of “urgent need,” highlights “the importance of this request,” especially in the context of the “deep economic crisis facing Cuba,” something that is “significantly impacting the food and nutritional security of the population” of the country.

The Cuban Government had not made public either the request or the first multilateral contributions, even though it has been talking about the problem for weeks.

Letter to executive management

The multilateral organization also confirmed that “this is the first time that Cuba has requested support by issuing an official communication at the highest level of management of the WFP,” although the program has had several projects on the island for some time.

As EFE has been able to confirm from two sources familiar with the request, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment (Mincex) sent the letter to the executive management of the WFP in Rome at the end of last year.

As a result of that letter, the WFP indicated that this February it managed to deliver “144 metric tons of skimmed milk powder”, benefiting almost 48,000 girls and boys between seven months and three years old in Pinar del Río and Havana.

This represents only 6% of the minors to whom the Government intends to provide subsidized milk.

Furthermore, according to the WFP, the Cuban request “does not refer to any explicit time frame” – it does not ask for support for a limited time – so the multilateral organization is seeking to “mobilize additional resources.”

“We are in constant dialogue with traditional and non-traditional donors, exploring various options that facilitate both donation and financing,” WFP said.

EFE has been able to confirm that at least two countries, one in Europe and another in America, have been contacted by the WFP. Both are currently analyzing their possibilities and have not made a decision.

Scarce resource

Milk has been a scarce commodity for years in Cuba, although in general children up to seven years old (and people with special diets) could count on an amount of powdered milk per month through the ration card, so They obtained it at a highly subsidized price (2.5 pesos per kilogram, about 21 cents).

The availability of state-sourced milk, however, has deteriorated in recent months. Some provinces have cut the prioritized population or reduced the quantities they deliver, while others have begun to distribute vitaminized drinks as a substitute.

The Minister of Domestic Trade, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, assured in mid-February that the national production of milk is insufficient and that there have been problems importing what is necessary, so the State cannot meet the demand for “more than 2,000 tons.” monthly milk allowances for children under seven years of age and people with special diets.


Faced with these difficulties, in Cuba, it is possible to find liquid and powdered milk in some of the companies in the country’s emerging private sector, but at prices that are inaccessible to the vast majority of Cubans.

A kilo of powdered milk can cost between 1,500 and 2,000 pesos, while the average monthly salary is 4,200 pesos.

Cuba’s chronic economic difficulties degenerated three years ago into a serious crisis due to the pandemic, the tightening of US sanctions and decisions in national macroeconomic, commercial and monetary policy.

The situation is especially evident in the shortage of basic products (food, fuel and medicine). Cuba imports 80% of what it consumes and has serious problems supplying the foreign currency it needs to import goods.

In recent months, many of the products that are still included in the supply card, such as rice, coffee, or oil, have been delivered irregularly or in reduced quantities. The long lines around the warehouses that distribute subsidized products are constant.

Recently the Cuban Government acknowledged not being able to ensure the supply of bread through the ration card in February and March due to problems with the supply of flour.