Private citizens and faith-based groups in the United States are getting desperately needed food, medicine and medical equipment to the Cuban people during a historic crisis.

The humanitarian exemptions built into the U.S. embargo on Cuba mean that food donations to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or individuals in Cuba help the Cuban people.

And it’s not only food. The United States routinely approves humanitarian-related exports to Cuba, including:

  • Medicines and medical devices, whether sold or donated, for treating the Cuban people.
  • Telecommunications items to improve communications to, from and among the Cuban people, unless they go to prohibited Cuban officials or senior Cuban Communist Party members.
Woman pushing luggage cart filled with bags (© Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)
A Cuban American arrives with luggage as she leaves Havana’s José Martí International Airport November 20, 2020. Many Cuban Americans bring supplies for their families in Cuba. (© Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

Individual U.S. citizens are donating medical and health-related equipment, food staples, and basic toiletries and hygiene products that the Cuban people cannot find on store shelves.

But that’s only part of the story. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic makes it even more important that these items reach the Cuban people quickly. The State Department helps by working with NGOs and private-sector companies to expedite the export of basic goods and medical equipment like syringes, personal protective equipment and much-needed food. Already, the State and Transportation departments have approved two private charter airlines to deliver more than 2.7 metric tons of care packages to cities throughout Cuba.

“The Biden-Harris administration stands by the Cuban people and people around the world who demand their human rights and who expect governments to listen to and serve them rather than try to silence them,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken on July 12.