Situation of children in Cuba
Different data and researches show the high level of development and protection of children and adolescents in Cuba
The Cuban State has shown strong political will to guarantee the proper development and well-being of childhood. Different data and researches show the high levels of protection and development among children and adolescents, especially regarding educational coverage and mother-child health care.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force in Cuba on September 20th, 1991, when the Convention’s text, signed by the President of the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba, was published entirely in the Official Gazette. This way, the rights of children and adolescents were endorsed by a legal body.
Currently, Cuba has a population of 11.2 million, including 2.3 million people under 18 years of age, who account for 21 per cent of the total population.
Cuba is currently undergoing an updating process of its economic model, based on the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines approved in 2011. Despite the complex transformations being carried out in the country, there has always been an explicit commitment by the government and its institutions to preserve the achievements made in the protection of childhood and adolescence.
The most disadvantaged population sectors are those who receive less income, live in run-down houses or hard-to-reach areas, suffer from nutritional deficiencies, have disabilities, or make up families with risk behaviours and habits. However, the Government provides attention to the most disadvantaged child and adolescent populations.
The net enrolment rate in primary education is 99.1 per cent and the gross secondary school enrolment ratio is 96.4 per cent, with high gender parity indexes at all levels. In addition, all deliveries are registered and 99.9 per cent of them take place in hospitals with the assistance of qualified health professionals.
In 2015, Cuba became the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis. This was achieved as a result of the State’s efforts, with the support of international cooperation, to guarantee prenatal care, with an average of 10 check-ups per pregnant woman; institutional delivery with qualified personnel; serological and HIV testing during pregnancy with active surveillance of pregnant women who test positive for HIV or syphilis; and access to antiretroviral treatment according to the guidelines of international organizations.
The State gives priority to early childhood comprehensive development through education and health programs like the Mother and Child Care Program, the “Educate your Child” Program and the attention to day-care centres. The early childhood care programs have a 96 per cent coverage, through either institutional or non-institutional modalities.
The attention to people with disabilities is a priority of the social policy aimed at increasing their quality of life and equal opportunities. The Ministry of Education and other institutions, together with families and communities, have started to apply other options for socio-educational inclusion, by integrating children and adolescents with disabilities into mainstream education at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels, as well as to the “Educate your Child” Program. This entails challenges that involve teachers and families.
Accidents remain the main cause of death among children aged 5-9, and adolescents aged 10-19.
Some nutritional deficiencies still exist:
- Iron deficiency anaemia (mild) is still a public health issue. In 2011, 21.6 per cent of women suffered from it during the first quarter of pregnancy, and 31.3 per cent of children between 6 to 35 months old. In eastern Cuba, mild anaemia affects 39.5 per cent of children under 2.
- Overweight and obesity show an upward trend, prevalent in 17.6 percent of children under five.
- The average duration of exclusive breastfeeding in children aged 0-35 months is 2.9 months.
- The vitamin A status of pre-schoolers shows a mild sub-clinical deficiency in eastern provinces and moderate in the western region. The highest prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders is found among school children in the mountainous region and reaches a 32.6 per cent.
The age of criminal responsibility is 16 years. There are three Protection Centres for Children and Adolescents and other services with similar roles in different provinces for specialized care, avoiding re-victimization, for children who are victims of crimes and other damages to their integrity and development.
In Cuba, about 400 children without family protection are currently living in institutions (homes for children without family protection). These institutions are governed by the Ministry of Education, particularly through the Departments of Pre-School and Special Education. The State contributes with human, material, and financial resources so that life in these institutions runs as similarly as the conditions in family homes, with a reduced number of children (no more than 20).
The program “For a world of rights”, led by the Ministry of Justice and made up of several institutions and organizations, has fostered the promotion of a culture of rights. The studies carried out show a gradual increase of knowledge about the national legislation and the CRC, as well as opportunities to strengthen meaningful participation of children and adolescents in matters that affect them.
The constant promotion of meaningful participation of adolescents through culture and sports is crucial so that new generations assume an active role in the updating of the Cuban model and a more effective exercise of citizenship.
The growing but still limited access to information and communication technologies opens a range of perceptions, interests and aspirations in the Cuban child and adolescent universe. The steps taken by Cuba in this regard should be maintained and accompanied by additional efforts to improve their quality.