Cuba

CWS Relief supplies arrive in Cuba

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A 54-ton shipment of humanitarian relief supplies by Church World Service arrived in Cuba Jan. 2 -- the largest aid package for Hurricane Lili from an NGO.
The shipment of food, medicines and medical supplies, health kits and blankets, valued at $187,150, is the greatest material assistance CWS has supplied Cuba over five years of humanitarian aid to the island's people. Lili s devastation worsened economic conditions in Cuba, which has been affected by an economic embargo imposed by the United States.

The shipment comes at a critical time and was deeply appreciated by the Cuban people, said Digna de Jesus of the CWS Emergency Response Office. De Jesus traveled to Cuba for three days in late December to prepare for the shipment, along with Rick Augsburger, CWS Emergency Response Office Director.

De Jesus said Cubans are extremely grateful for previous CWS shipments, including a 1995 delivery of hospital medical equipment. "The Cubans said this equipment has helped save lives, allowing people to stay in hospitals for an extended time," she said.

De Jesus added that she left Cuba admiring the endurance and adaptability of the Cubans she met. "There are so many shortages in Cuba, and everything is done with such a small amount," she said. "Whatever they have, they really work with it."

Shortages of supplies are endemic at schools and clinics - something de Jesus witnessed during her visit in Havana. "There is a shortage of school supplies in the schools and the hours the children stay in school are very long," she said.

"At a clinic for abandoned children, the children not only suffer from severe physical problems and family abandonment, but also from a lack of basic needs just to feel comfortable each day," she said. "For example, eeven just a simple diaper."

Continued support by U.S. churches, de Jesus said, will help these children "experience a little bit of comfort."

The Cuban Council of Churches, the CWS partner in Cuba, is coordinating distribution of the relief items, which will be given to hospitals, schools, nursing homes and needy elderly. Lili destroyed 5,600 homes, damaged another 79,000 residential structures, caused extensive crop losses on banana and sugar cane plantations and crippled power plants, manufacturing facilities, schools, and hospitals.

Denominational support for the shipment came to $56,000, with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) providing $6,000, the United Methodist Committee on Relief $30,000, and the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) $20,000, all in response to a CWS appeal issued in October.

The 109,209-pound shipment, which was approved by the U.S. State Department, was sent to Cuba by air freight and included 9,906 pounds of dry milk; 34,660 pounds of black beans; 42,000 pounds of beef chunks; 2,023 pounds of medicines & hospital supplies; 15,040 pounds of layettes, health kits, soap, hospital wear and cotton blankets.

Call the CWS HOTLINE for updates: (800) 456-1310.

For further information about disasters to which Church World Service is responding, contact CWS Emergency Response.

Telephone: (212) 870-3151
E-mail: CWS_DROFFICE.parti@ecunet.org
After-hours emergency pager: (800) 418-0408
Internet Web Site: http://www.ncccusa.org/CWS/emre