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Cuba asks UN to feed kids

Regional 13 Mar, 2024 Follow News

Many children in Cuba are malnourished

Gas lines in Cuba can stretch for miles

Cuba’s struggling economy has sunk to a new low this week with the government asking for the first time for assistance from the United Nation’s food programme.

Cuba wants help as food shortages on the Communist-run island worsens, particularly for small children.

The World Food Programme said it had received an unprecedented official request from the Cuban government for help providing powdered milk to children under seven years old.

The request is a sign of the seriousness of Cuba’s economic crisis as gas prices leapt by 500 percent on March 1. As well as a shortage of milk, fuel and medicines are also running alarmingly low.

The WFP said it had already started delivering milk powder to the island.

Powdered milk and other basic foods are provided to Cubans at a subsidised price through ration books, but delays and lack of supplies are common, especially during economic hardship.

The price of petrol in Cuba has risen by five times its previous price since Friday as a measure to boost the economy. But after years of deepening economic crisis, Cubans fear that they will not be able to withstand this latest blow.

Long queues of cars have been part of Cuban life for decades. Motorists literally spend whole days waiting to fill up their vehicles with gasoline. “These lines have become the norm, it’s tedious. We spend hours in line to fill up just 40 litres of fuel,” said a motorist.

This sudden spike in gas is a source of great anxiety for Cuban motorists. Before March 1, gas in Cuba cost the equivalent of eight US cents per litre – one of the lowest prices in the world. But this still seemed expensive to Cubans, whose wages have not kept pace with inflation in recent years.

In the short term, this measure will accelerate inflation. In a country where the average wage is barely US$16 a month, the end of hardship seems a long way off for Cubans, as malnutrition also continues to rise.

The Cuban government continues to blame the ongoing US sanctions for the dire state of its economy but critics say government mismanagement is behind the current economic crisis - the worst in three decades.

Last year, Vice-Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca conceded that progress in making Cuba more self-sufficient was lagging and blamed workers, whom he said lacked a “culture of productivity”.

“Work is needed to produce food. We all expect to be sent food, but we do nothing to produce it,” he said in July.

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