Official Stubbornness is killing Venezuelan Patients

The government hears stories about a Humanitarian Crisis and sees a public relations problem at best, an international plot at worst. Me? I see people dying.

I wish Delcy Eloína spent one day, just one day, doing what I do, looking into the eyes of parents with sick children wandering the overcrowded ER, not knowing what to do after we tell them we don’t have the drugs their kids need.

The picture is always the same: If your brother was shot in a protest or a robbery, if your wife is going into labor, if your little kid has asthma, you’ll trek from a pharmacy to another for hours, sometimes at night, looking for syringes or antibiotics.

Nicolás Maduro’s government refuses to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis. Why? It’s a question that keeps us medical professionals awake at night. The guy sees the whole crisis as an excuse for military intervention. According to Ryan Dube:

“Many people have said that in Venezuela there is a humanitarian crisis (…) That’s the biggest lie of all lies,” said Delcy Rodríguez, then the country’s foreign minister, at a June meeting of the Organization of American States. “It’s one more excuse to intervene in Venezuela.”

The Venezuelan health network failed its people and it refuses to see it:

“Mr. Maduro has been willing to seek help from U.N. agencies to buy medicine at lower prices, but his administration has rejected offers for outright aid. The government believes that its imperialist foes are exaggerating the gravity of the situation to provide a pretext for meddling or even invasion. In May, Venezuela banned imports of first aid that could have been used by antigovernment protesters.”

Chavismo doesn’t actually care about Venezuelans dying in the healthcare collapse. Even though Maduro asked the UN for help back in March, nothing happened and the ban on first aid material made it difficult for NGOs to bring very needed supplies into the country.

Even if the meds get to Caracas, getting them out of the city is a monumental task, after the Government banned internal shipment through courier agencies. Some organizations regularly send help to Venezuela, but they do it in small scale, since the chance their items get seized by customs is very real. Once the supplies are here, those interested may contact national coordinators and personally retrieve them.

The tiny-scale donations are far from what we need (even a full scale program wouldn’t do much), but they’re a ray of hope for people in need, and that’s much more than anything the Government has done for them.

“This is gold,” said Katherine Martínez, leader of volunteers at the J.M. de los Ríos Hospital. The staff has gone for weeks without baby formula over there. “The donations are fundamental because shortages are huge.”

Few things show how hard Chavista model failed in Venezuela like the devastated health system does. As Dube suggests, this is one of the main reasons why it refuses help.

Accepting aid would also be seen as an acknowledgment that Venezuela’s socialist policies have failed, a hard pill to swallow for a government used to sending relief to other Latin American countries hit by natural disasters.

They’re too proud to admit they’re the true natural disaster.

Juan Carlos Gabaldón

Medical doctor from Merida, currently studying Medical Parasitology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine