IACHR Press Office
Washington D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (SRESCER) are concerned about acute and persistent food shortages in Cuba. These shortages affect food security and living conditions, as well as individuals' physical, emotional, and individual development, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IACHR and its SRESCER have been informed of shortages of staples and essential food products in Cuba that are affecting nutrition among the country's people. The impact of food shortages is particularly devastating for older persons, individuals who are chronically ill, pregnant women, and children and adolescents. This is one of the main challenges the Cuban people are currently facing and exposes the country's extreme vulnerability concerning food security.
As noted in its report on poverty and human rights in the Americas, the IACHR stresses that most aspects of food insecurity, and even malnutrition and undernutrition, are both consequences and causes of poverty.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security requires that "all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."
An examination conducted by the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) showed that Cuba imports approximately 70% of the food it needs, equivalent to 50% of the monthly food basket that is subsidized by the government and handed out to the Cuban people. In particular, food shortages in Cuba and the country's import dependence can be explained by structural problems in the local productive/farming system. This is in turn caused by a lack of farming inputs and equipment for agricultural value chains; a lack of adequate services and incentives; extreme weather events and climate-related risks; insufficient technology, knowledge, innovation, and investment; low productivity; and limited use of credit and insurance.
The IACHR and its SRESCER further observe with concern WFP reports that the food basket that is subsidized by the Cuban State only covers 40% of the energy intake that is recommended for adequate individual nutrition. This implies that, to secure the remaining 60%, the Cuban people need to buy food in non-subsidized markets, known to involve very high prices, irregular supply, and potential shortages.
In its report on the Situation of Human rights in Cuba (2020), the IACHR noted that there is a recurrent shortage in the country of essential food products including oil, wheat flour, rice, pork, chicken, and eggs. Along similar lines, testimonies provided by Cuban citizens complained of the serious difficulties locals face to access food products beyond those included in their ration books.
The situation is compounded by high inflation and a severe contraction of income both for the country as a whole and for households (particularly income from tourism) as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, food imports have been affected by interruptions in international supply chains and by uncertainty about the effects of the pandemic on global markets.
The Commission and its SRESCER stress that, to enable the physical, emotional, and intellectual development of all people during the COVID-19 pandemic, States must ensure adequate nutrition for all people, particularly those who are poor or vulnerable, as suggested by the IACHR's Resolution 1/2020 and Resolution 4/2020.
In line with earlier statements, the IACHR further stresses its concern about the persistent economic embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States. The Commission highlights that ending this embargo is important to protect the human rights affected by it. In particular, the IACHR notes that the economic restrictions that are imposed on Cuba deepen and worsen problematic access to food in the country. The Commission stresses that the right to adequate food is linked to the dignity that is inherent to all human beings and remains essential for social justice and the eradication of poverty.
The IACHR and its SRESCER therefore stress the duty of the Cuban State to take concrete action to provide the country's population with access to adequate nutrition or the means to secure it, in order to ensure that people can meet their basic needs and attain comprehensive development, even in cases of restricted access to resources such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The IACHR and its SRESCER further call on States in the Americas to foster increased cooperation in terms of access to food, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SRESCER is an office of the IACHR and was especially created to brace the Commission's compliance with its mandate to promote and protect economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the Americas.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.
The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.