‘I'm Very Frustrated': Families on the Difficult Task of Sending Supplies to Cuba

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Laymis Alvarez says for days she’s been crying and praying to get help for her sister in Cuba.

“She’s in a lot of pain,” Alvarez said. “They don’t have Tylenol. They don’t have Motrin, Advil, nothing.” 

Her sister Raiza lives in Havana and has diabetes. She recently had her foot amputated, and with little to no medicine on the island, she developed a severe infection and is in extreme pain. 

“She’s diabetic and the blood sugar is out of control,” she said. “It’s no treatment for her right now.”

Alvarez, who works in the medical field, put together a box filled with medicine, vitamins, and PPE.

“I have alcohol,” Alvarez said. “I have Tylenol, antibiotics, gauze, needles.”

But she says when she called shipping companies to try to send it, she hit a brick wall.

She was told, because of recent unrest and restrictions on the island, it could take months to get there and there are still no guarantees, she said.

“When you call to find out, they say there’s nothing we can do,” Alvarez said.

Dr. Raquel Garcia, a clinical researcher for Research Centers of America, says she was trying to gather supplies to send, too.

Garcia said she hit the same brick wall. 

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“The companies are apologizing,” Garcia said. “It’s not up to us. It’s not our fault. We don’t have the gas. We don’t have the means to get these products to the people.”

This week, Cuban officials announced all plane passengers will be allowed to bring unlimited food, medicine, and hygiene products between now and December.

Garcia says flying there now is too unsafe.

“It’s not reality,” she said. “It’s not the reality of the situation right now.”

She says getting medicine to the island is dire and hospitals there are strained. 

“Family members are literally dying because they don’t have the right medication, the right treatments,” Garcia said. “People are losing their limbs because there are no antibiotics.”

“I’m very frustrated,” Alvarez said. “And we need help.”

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