Venezuela’s tragedy: The disintegration of the health sector

Venezuela’s tragedy: The disintegration of the health sector

by Jamie Nugent
article from Monday 10, September, 2018

VENEZUELA IS SUFFERING from an acute health crisis, with many suffering and dying from preventable diseases. Public spending on healthcare has been drastically cut back, and private citizens, desperately trying to afford food and basic goods, cannot afford medicines or medical services. 

The Clinical University Hospital of Caracas used to be Venezuela’s flagship medical centre, but today it cannot offer basic services such as x-ray. There are frequent power cuts and water is often cut off. According to Efrain Vegasa, a trauma surgeon, “all that is left here is the building and the doctors. This hospital is just a shell.”

The almost complete absence of basic medicines such as vaccines, antibiotics and antivirals now means that many Venezuelans are now dying from preventable diseases. In 2016, an average of 31 Venezuelan infants died every day from preventable diseasessuch as diarrhoea and bacterial infections. Parents must scour the nation’s hospitals for basic but unavailable medicines in a desperate struggle to keep their children alive. The situation is truly heart-breaking

300,000 Venezuelans are suffering from chronic diseases. With a 90 per cent absence of high-cost drugs for many diseases, there is an imminent risk of death for those who need daily treatment. Several have already died

In response, the government refuses to allocate sufficient funds to import medicines and owes considerable sumsto international suppliers of medicines. Only some 5 percent of necessary medicines are available. Price controlsand nationalisations caused the sharp decline of the domestic pharmaceutical industry. The Government now suggests people use herbal medicines instead. 

However, for those such as cancer patients in severe pain, herbal cures do not help and they suffer in agony without relief from specialist medicines. The finance ministry refuses to release the funds needed to buy more morphine, says Dr. Patricia Bonilla, founder of the Venezuelan Society of Palliative Medicine. 

By 1945 Venezuela had eliminated the main epidemics. But now they are back. Chikungunya affected 3.5 million between 2012 and 2015 and 10 per cent of the population caught Zika and Dengue fever. Malaria has returned, affecting 246,000 people in 2016, with the number doubling in 2017

As the cost of Venezuela’s health crisis grows, international NGOs and governments around the world must ask take action to help.

For further information on the Venezuela Campaign see or its website


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