‘My Medicine or My Baby’s Milk’: Venezuela’s Health Crisis Takes Personal Toll

The health crisis in socialist Venezuela is now reaching apocalyptic proportions as hospitals and pharmacies have just a fraction of the medicine and resources required to give people adequate medical treatment.

This according to an extensive report from the independent newspaper El Nacional, entitled “Venezuela’s Health Holocaust,” which tells the stories of Venezuelans suffering at the hands of the country’s collapsed hospital system.

“The reason we refer to the health crisis as a ‘holocaust’ is that the government has kept hospitals in a precarious situation, not placing as the necessary amount of medical supplies needed for emergency care,” said Douglas León Natera, president of the Venezuelan medical association. “It sounds a bit harsh but this is the reality.”

One of those Venezuelans is a young mother named Yuleidy, who has had a kidney transplant and requires regular medication to keep her healthy. Yet amidst the country’s economic crisis, she can no longer afford both medication and the milk to feed her baby.

“It’s very difficult for me to get these medications, she said. “Where I get them cost a lot of money. I have to decide between the pills or the milk of my baby.”

Another mother, Ángel Monroy, describes her three-year-old son, who suffers from a rare form of leukemia that is curable in around 80 percent of cases. However, due to the unavailability of the necessary drugs, his chances of survival are now around 10 percent.

Yet another, 53-year-old Nori Ramirez, tells El Nacional that she is suffering the heartbreak of not being able to feed her four children. Three of her four children suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth, and she regularly gives up food herself to feed her children.

“I wish I could give my children food,” she said.

Meanwhile, 54-year-old Lesbia Vegas also faces a struggle to feed her family, despite earning a comparatively generous state pension having worked for her local mayor.

“Sometimes we eat twice a day but everything is uncertain,” Vegas said. “I have lost 18 kilos so far this year. … If I want a chocolate, I can not buy it. Something as simple as that and I can not eat it.”

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. Yet amid the country’s humanitarian crisis, which has rendered their currency practically worthless, over 95 percent of basic medicines are no longer available.

Last week, members of the Venezuelan opposition pleaded with the international community to open a “humanitarian corridor” to the country’s suffering population.

“We ask the international community to adopt measures to deliver needed food and medicine to our people in Venezuela—if necessary through the establishment to address the hunger and death that affects the hunger amongst us,” the letter read. “As this crisis festers, the possible surge of refugees in the Americas grows more likely.

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