“I come from a dictatorship. People don’t say that enough.”
These are the words our Astrid Cantor used to put into context the profound political, economic and humanitarian crises in Venezuela as it took center stage this past weekend at the powerful Women in the World Summit held in New York City, an annual convening of women (and men who champion them) who are on the frontlines everywhere, including celebrities, CEOs, political leaders, activists and change-makers from Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, to Diane von Furstenberg and Liberian Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee.
At a panel called “Doctors who work in Peril,” Dr. Cantor, Caracas Chronicles columnist and medical doctor in Mérida State, and Federica Dávila, a medical student based in Caracas and founder of the Cruz Verde first aid group, described the extreme conditions under which they have to work, in a country plagued by severe food and medicine shortages, high inflation and an increasingly deteriorating health infrastructure.
From lack of female hygiene products (Astrid revealed on stage she would be packing lots of sanitary pads in her suitcases to bring back home) to Cruz Verde’s personnel suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing last year’s violent protests, the conversation revealed the serious and often heartbreaking dimensions of the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela, and the lack of appropriate responses from government officials.
Tina Brown, CEO and founder of Women in the World, says the summit’s mission has always been to shine a spotlight on the darkest corners of the world, and that includes Venezuela:
We have followed the escalating crisis in Venezuela with a watchful and concerned eye, connecting with incredibly fearless journalists, doctors and activists from the region throughout the year to fully understand the scope and complexity of the situation. We feel Dr. Astrid Cantor and Federica Dávila’s stories and perspectives are so very important and we’re honored to provide a megaphone and platform for their message. These two intrepid young women serve as a beacon of hope for the future of Venezuela.
Check out the panel discussion in full: Doctors working in peril video.