Office of the Spokesman
September 15, 2008
Humanitarian Assistance to the Cuban People Following Hurricanes Gustav and Ike
Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike have caused severe damage to Cuba, displacing over two million people and destroying homes across the island. In order to assist the Cuban people in this time of crisis, the United States is taking the following steps:
- The United States has provided $100,000 in immediate emergency assistance to NGOs engaged in humanitarian relief operations in Cuba.
- The United States informed the Cuban Government on September 13 that the U.S. is committed to providing up to $5 million in relief assistance for Cuban hurricane victims. As part of this assistance, the U.S. offered to fly emergency relief supplies to Cuba as soon as the Cuban Government approved such a donation. The Cuban Government declined this offer on September 14. We regret that the Cuban authorities have not accepted this offer and we are investigating other ways to get humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people.
- In the wake of the hurricanes, the U.S. Government increased existing authorizations for U.S.-based NGOs to provide larger amounts of humanitarian assistance, including in the form of cash donations, to help address the basic needs of the Cuban people. For a period of 90 days, the U.S. will expedite applications for immediate humanitarian assistance of up to $10 million per NGO, subject to appropriate restrictions. We have already authorized over $5 million in private donations.
- Individuals and organizations interested in assisting hurricane victims in Cuba are encouraged to provide cash donations to reputable humanitarian assistance organizations that are licensed to send humanitarian aid to Cuba.
- The United States has also licensed $250 million in agricultural sales to Cuba since Hurricane Gustav struck Cuba on September 7. Lumber, an important reconstruction material, is included within this category of agricultural sales. The United States is considering Cuba’s request to purchase other reconstruction materials on a case-by-case basis, consistent with U.S. law.
- The American people are the largest providers of humanitarian aid to the Cuban people, and Cuba's top supplier of food. In 2007, the American people provided $240.5 million in private humanitarian assistance in the form of gift parcels filled with food and other basic necessities ($179.4 million), non-agricultural humanitarian donations ($20.6 million), and medical donations ($40.5 million). The United States Government also authorized $3.65 billion in sales of agricultural products ($3.621 billion) and sales of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals ($20.6 million).