Health Crisis in Venezuela: Under Strain from Economic Problems


CARACAS — Venezuela, a South American country, is suffering from one of its worst economic upheavals in history. A sudden plunge in oil prices and financial mismanagement have left the economy beleaguered and the people deprived. The economic problem and humanitarian emergency have made headlines all over the world. Social issues are exacerbated as a result, the most disastrous being the health crisis in Venezuela.

The lack of good healthcare and medical assistance in Venezuela is an especially grave issue because it is endangering the social welfare and imperiling the lives of thousands. Malnutrition and poor mental health are also becoming widespread.

The health crisis in Venezuela is also impacting nearby Colombia. Many individuals are crossing the border due to the demand for healthcare and medical services.

Moreover, diseases like malaria and diphtheria are returning because of poor sanitation and lack of infrastructure in the country. Medicines for common illnesses are no longer available. Venezuela is falling short of more than 85 percent of the medicines it once had to treat its citizenry.

The state of the economy is one of the main causes of the health crisis in Venezuela. Inflation has increased exponentially over the last 18 months and now stands at a massive 720 percent. Parents are unable to provide good nutrition and sufficient food for their families. Food and basic necessities are often deficient in supply and are too expensive, making shortages rampant. Supermarket shelves are often empty and some people are forced to scavenge food from the streets. Many have even resorted to smuggling and buying goods on black markets.

The recent release of new data by the health ministry revealed shocking news about the state of healthcare in the country. Nearly 20 percent of Venezuela’s doctors, about 13,000 individuals, have left the country after the disintegration of the healthcare sector. Child malnutrition is now estimated to be as high as 13 percent and infant and maternal deaths are on the rise.

However, the health crisis in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, is steadily being alleviated. UNICEF regional offices are always on standby in Venezuela and are dedicated to addressing the health crisis. Local organizations also play a crucial role in combating the health crisis in Venezuela. According to the government, more than 2,000 care facilities have been established throughout the country.

The Jose Manuel de la Rios hospital is still stocked with resources. Also, organizations like Red de Medicos or la Salud and Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic charity, are constantly overseeing the state of malnutrition so that the relevant data is collated. The government does not share health statistics readily.

Given the very nature and framework of Venezuela’s government, easing the heath crisis will take a long time. NGOs and other international organizations find it difficult to channel aid and other services due to the government’s stance on foreign aid and the socialist economic model of the country. So far, countries like Panama, Spain and the U.S. have been able to send only a small number of donations and medical supplies to Venezuela.

The healthcare sector will only strengthen if the inflationary conditions ease. It is essential for the international community to be aware of the problems facing the people of Venezuela. Effective collaboration between governments and organizations seems to be the only way out of the health crisis in Venezuela.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr


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