Further protests are taking place in Venezuela over increasing shortages of medicine, causing thousands of preventable deaths, the Associated Press has reported.
Around 95 percent of expensive medicines are now unavailable, and hundreds of thousands of sick and injured Venezuelans lack the necessary treatments.
One of those people is María Ayala, who suffers from stomach ulcers, with her condition worsening in recent months due to lack of treatment.
“We don’t want to feel like we are invisible, we want to live,” Ayala told the AP during a protest outside the department of social security.
Some of the signs held by protesters read: “death does not wait” and “we have no tomorrow.”
“The situation is alarming, there is a total absence of medicine affecting around 300,000 people in Venezuela,” said Francisco Valencia of the healthcare charity Codevida. “We are living through an unprecedented crisis, mortalities are rising at an alarming rate and thousands have lost their quality of life.”
As part of the socialist reforms of the country’s late leader Hugo Chávez, the right to health care was enshrined in the Venezuelan constitution. However, amid the country’s economic collapse, which could see inflation rise by a staggering 1700 percent, the government has been forced to make a series of drastic cuts, meaning hundreds of thousands of people cannot access adequate health care.
In March, Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro pleaded with the United Nations to deliver humanitarian aid in the form of medical supplies, blaming private companies for waging an “economic war” against the country.
“The United Nations has the most advanced and complete plans in the world to recover the pharmaceutical industry’s production capacity and direct it toward medicines for the people,” Maduro said on national television, urging the U.N. to act. “I trust in you to keep advancing the strengthening of… the productive engines of the Bolivarian economic agenda.”
The chronic lack of medicine has led to a series of health issues, such as a rise in amputations of infected limbs due to a lack of antibiotics, mastectomies due to a lack of cancer treatment, as well as HIV and teen pregnancies due to the shortage of contraceptives.
Other shortages in Venezuela include food and basic sanitary products. The Venezuelan government sets price caps on food products such as pasta, rice, and flour, but people are forced to queue for hours in hot temperatures to buy them, with latecomers missing out altogether. Products such as red meat, dairy, and fresh vegetables are now too expensive for many people to buy.
A recent report found that over 15 percent of Venezuelans have resorted to scavenging for food, while a majority of people go to bed hungry.
Meanwhile, sanitary products such as shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, and tampons are also in short supply, with many forced to ration their usage.
“I’ve always loved brushing my teeth before going to sleep. I mean, that’s the rule, right?” cosmetic worker Ana Margarita Rangel told The Washington Post, from one of the slums, known as barrios, 25 miles west of Caracas. “Now I have to choose. So I do it only in the mornings.”
Maduro recently raised the minimum wage to 97,531 bolivars a month, which on Venezuela’s official exchange rate equates to around $70 a month but only holds a real market worth of $12.53. However, due to levels of inflation, the currency is rapidly losing value.
Daily protests are now taking place across Venezuela amid the country’s economic and political crisis. According to an ongoing analysis from Venezuelan outlet RunRunes, at least 108 people have died since the country’s opposition called for daily protests in April as police use brutality to contain the protesters.