Cuba ended the year 2010 with an infant mortality rate of 4.5 per 1,000 live births, the lowest in its history, the country's health ministry said Monday in a statement.

Cuba had 127,710 births in 2010, 2,326 fewer than in 2009. The number of infant deaths was 45 fewer than in 2009, according to the ministry.

The province with the lowest infant death rate, 2.5 per 1,000, was Villa Clara in central Cuba. Another seven provinces also had death rates below 5 per 1,000.

Cuba's infant mortality rate was the lowest in the Americas, said the statement.

Cuba spends more than 60 percent of its budget on free education and health care. Babies are scheduled to be examined by a doctor 12 times in a year and have a genetic test and immunization against 12 preventable diseases. Pregnant women receive an average of 17 medical treatments and 99.99 percent of them deliver in hospital.

 

Greater maternity protection for working mothers (2017)

Maternity benefits have been extended to grandparents in Cuba in order to encourage a greater birth rate.

From now on women are also entitled to continue to receive their maternity benefit as well as their salary if they return to work before the child is a year old.

Cuba already allows both parents to take more than a year off from work at partial pay. The new law extends these benefits to grandparents who can receive maternity benefits together with their pensions for caring for their grandchildren.