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What are the current issues in Cuba

Cuba, with a population of 11 million people, imports 70 to 80% of its domestic food requirements. Its economic model is being updated to improve efficiency and sustainability, guided by the principle that no Cuban will be left unprotected. Climate hazards, poor dietary diversity and practices and low agriculture productivity represent a challenge to national food security. In 2015, WFP launched a four-year Country Programme to support national efforts to strengthen food-based safety nets for vulnerable groups and promote food and nutrition security.

With its comprehensive social protection programmes, Cuba has largely eradicated hunger and poverty. It is one of the most successful countries in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and was ranked 44th of the 187 countries in the 2014 UNDP Human Development Index. However, with a population of a little over 11 million people, Cuba imports 70 to 80% of its domestic food requirements. Most imports are for social protection programmes. Increasing domestic food production – particularly of beans, a main staple and a critical source of protein – is a government priority to substitute imports and improve food security.

In 2011 the Government of Cuba launched a process to update its economic model to improve the efficiency, reduce the costs and increase the sustainability of social protection programmes. These efforts are guided by the Government’s commitment to ensure that no Cuban is left unprotected.

The five eastern provinces – Granma, Guantánamo, Holguín, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba – have the lowest development rates and are prone to drought and torrential rains, exacerbating the difficult agricultural conditions. Pinar del Rio and Matanzas in western Cuba are very exposed to tropical cyclones and extreme weather events, with severe impacts on food security and nutrition.

Over the last eight years, climate hazards (tropical storms, hurricanes, heavy rainfall and droughts) have caused more than USD 20 billion in losses, with significant impacts on the economy and food security. Another threat to food security is the limited access to credit for farmers and low agriculture productivity, particularly in the eastern provinces.

Besides, generally poor food diversity – which has declined with changes in the subsidized food basket – combined with poor dietary practices has resulted in high rates of anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Cuba

In 2015, WFP launched a four-year country programme for Cuba to bolster the government’s efforts to update its economic model and social programmes.

The objective is to strengthen the food-related social protection safety nets for the vulnerable population (in particular meals distributed at schools and at support groups for the elders) by fostering their links with the agriculture system - mostly beans production and processing. In addition, the four-year programme will support national and local authorities to shift to more sustainable and targeted social protection systems to reinforce the resilience of the communities. It will also continue to work to increase the country’s preparedness against natural disasters.

Over 900,000 Cubans, including pregnant and lactating women, children under five years, farmers and adults over 65, will be benefit from this program. With a budget of over $ 16.8 million for four years, the program will focus on the five eastern provinces as well as Pinar del Rio and Matanzas.

Gender equality will be a cross-cutting theme for the duration of the programme by taking into account the different opportunities and challenges facing women and men, and the different needs of girls, boys, young people and the elderly as essential players in development processes.

The Country Programme is the first of its kind after 5 decades of WFP operations in Cuba. It repositions the scope of WFP’s work in Cuba to respond to the current priorities of the country and is based on close collaboration with the Government at national and local levels to promote food and nutritional security of vulnerable groups in the country.

The World Food Programme has been active in Cuba since 1963, when the first emergency operation was launched to assist the people affected by hurricane Flora. Throughout the following decades, WFP’s support to Cuba has been two-fold: strengthening food security and nutrition, as well as enhancing disaster management capacities.

Featured Cuba publications

  • Cuba: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 338 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Cuba? Visit the Cuba publications archive.