CRS in Cuba

Cuba continues to experience significant economic inequality and political repression. Despite profound social reforms, including universal access to free education (literacy 99.8 percent) and health benefits (life expectancy 78.2 years), living conditions today for most Cubans are quite severe because of poverty and economic uncertainty. CRS’ work centers around helping the most vulnerable, energizing peacebuilding initiatives and building on the capacity and future of the Cuban people.


People served: 174,565

Population: 11,031,433 (July 2015 est.)

Size: 42,803 sq. mi.; slightly smaller than Pennsylvania

CRS' History in Cuba

CRS works with Caritas Cubana. Since its creation in 1991, Caritas Cubana and its diocesan members have become the largest, independent nongovernmental organization on the island, with more than 40 staff and a network of some 12,000 volunteers. While not enjoying official legal recognition, Caritas continues to be accepted by the Cuban government. There are Caritas programs in all 11 dioceses as well as at the national level in Havana. 

Delivering more than $32 million in medical and emergency supplies for distribution to hospitals, homes for the elderly and victims of natural disasters since 1993, Catholic Relief Services has been one of Caritas Cuba's main supporters. 

The Cuban Church has prioritized “reconciliation” as a key aspect of its overall pastoral plan with one component of this focusing on the relationship between the Cuban Church and the Cuban/American community. CRS, in coordination with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), collaborates on these initiatives. 

CRS supports an institutional strengthening program aimed at improving the capacity of Caritas Cubana to continue and expand its humanitarian work on a national level and respond to the widespread needs of the most vulnerable. The program is designed to strengthen the formation of the Caritas staff and promote the active participation of 12,000 Caritas volunteers through training in the Social Doctrine of the Church, emergency preparation and response, and caring for the chronically ill.