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BACKGROUNDER, CHURCH WORLD SERVICE HUMANITARIAN AID TO CUBA 

Since 1992, Church World Service, the international humanitarian response ministry of the (U.S.) National Council of Churches, has had a license from the United States Department of Commerce to send humanitarian aid to Cuba.  CWS applies for a renewal every two years.  The current license expires on December 31, 2000. 

The material aid that CWS provides to churches in Cuba is consistent and systematic and responds directly to actual needs.   Aid is sent to the Cuban Council of Churches in response to specific requests from that ecumenical council for distribution to those who are most vulnerable – children, women, elderly and sick people, people in institutions and people affected by Hurricane Georges, which struck the Caribbean in September 1998.  Aid has included food, medicine, medical equipment and supplies, school supplies, sewing kits, soap, layettes, blankets and other goods. 

To date (including the 1,500 School Kits that the NCC delegation will deliver in Cardenas), CWS has sent 49 shipments weighing approximately 651,223 pounds (325 tons).  The declared value of the aid thus far is $1,045,809.58. 

CWS also responds to urgent requests from the Cuban Council of Churches for individual patients who require specific medicines.  In 1999, three urgent requests were met – one for a child with leukemia, one for an elderly bed-ridden man with bed sores and another for a severely burned 15-year-old girl. 

In other recent shipments:

        Medical supplies valued at $1,974.95 were sent to Cuba in July 2000.

        Donated CWS Gift of the Heart Health Kits and medical supplies weighing 30,815 pounds and valued at $318,833 were delivered to Cuba in June 2000.

        Medical supplies – 114 pieces, valued at $1,000 – arrived in Cuba in April 2000.

        Medical furniture and equipment, weighing about 7,000 pounds (3.5 tons) and valued at $8,000, arrived in Cuba in February 2000. 

In February 1998, a CWS shipment of 300 CWS Gift of the Heart School Kits was delivered by CWS and NCC staff to school children in Havana.  Also that month, CWS delivered a 20-foot container of 20,000 pounds of wheat flour and 20,000 pounds of broken rice that was donated by a grain distributor.  In May 1998, CWS delivered more than 3,000 pounds of medical supplies and equipment, and in October, sent a shipment of more than 23,000 pounds of blankets, canned meat, CWS Gift of the Heart Health, School and Sewing Kits and hospital bed sheets. 

In October 1996, the NCC was granted a special license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury authorizing a maximum of 75 visits to Cuba by representatives of the NCC and its member churches.  The current license expires Nov. 21, 2001. 

Written 8/22/00.  Contact: NCC News, 212-870-2227

The NCC and Cuba