The devastation in Venezuela continues to worsen as the country runs short of valuable, life-saving medications and other necessities to keep many of the country’s citizens healthy. The children of Venezuela, in particular, are left vulnerable by the traumatic shortages striking the country.
According to the Daily Mail, 85 out of every 100 medications are no longer available and every citizen is struggling to get the healthcare they need. Anti-convulsant drugs are one of the toughest medications to find, and many people are being harmed by the lack of access to their much-needed drugs. The subsequent untreated seizures and convulsions have left patients who would otherwise be completely functional with disabilities effecting their speech or mobility.
Marco Hereida, a Venezuelan plumber, told the Daily Mail that he searched 20 pharmacies in a single day, in an attempt to find the anti-convulsant medication his 8-year-old son, who is also named Marco, needs to treat his epilepsy. He even phoned across other cities and towns, but to no avail. Last year, young Marco suffered a seizure that left him with irreparable brain damage. The once-bright-eyed boy can no longer even sit upright on his own.
“You can’t find the medicines, and the government doesn’t want to accept that,” Hereida said. In the end, this dedicated father ended up traveling 860 kilometers (about 534 miles) to the Columbian border. There, a cousin from the neighboring country brought Hereida the medication he desperately needed for his child.
Federation calls on President Maduro to declare “humanitarian emergency”
Hereida’s story is like many others in Venezuela. Children and adults alike are suffering as they are unable to gain access to medication or even medical care in some cases. In an October 2016 interview with NPR, Hannah Dreier of the Associated Press described witnessing a 15-pound 4-year-old child die because his family couldn’t find the medication needed to treat him, and a 3-year-old develop a staph infection from a scraped knee that took 2 months to treat. According to Dreier, every time she visited the hospital, a child was “dying of malnutrition, dehydration or some other treatable illness.”
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The dire state of medical care in Venezuela even prompted the Venezuela Pharmaceutical Federation to demand that socialist President Nicolás Maduro declare a state of “humanitarian emergency” in January 2017.
The federation’s president, Freddy Ceballos, said in a statement earlier this year, “The national government must accept we are in a humanitarian crisis in the health sector, with patients dying across our territory for lack of medicines.” Everything from simple antibiotics to more advanced drugs for AIDS treatment has grown impossible to find.
The federation’s vice president, Yolanda Carrasquel, told reporters that drugs for treating convulsions, depression, and bipolar disorder had grown especially difficult to obtain. “We are talking 100 percent shortage on a national level,” Carrasquel explained. “There is no way to guarantee the health of Venezuelans.”
Venezuelan healthcare: a downward spiral
Since the passing of Hugo Chávez, the country’s former dictator, doctors began warning of the struggle hospitals and private practices were facing: even keeping basic items like syringes and anesthetics in stock had grown difficult. And as oil prices began to fall, the economic situation in the country only grew worse.
Soon, it became evident that medical facilities were in dire straits. A report revealed that hospitals had essentially stopped administering treatments to save injured limbs — which resulted in a stark increase in limb amputations.
Hospitals also reported a lack of basic necessities for sanitation purposes. For example, one hospital recorded 17 infant deaths as being a direct result of a possum infestation that hospital workers were unable to confront. The staff had neither the cleaning materials needed to keep things sanitary nor the funds to hire an exterminator.
In late January, the anti-socialists in Venezuela vowed to make it clear that the country’s economic system was what had led to their cruel fate. Freddy Guevara, the acting head of the opposition Popular Will party, stated, “We have to make clear that corruption in Venezuela is killing our people. Today, Venezuelans are dying due to lack of medications and are forced to make lines to buy food, precisely because the money that should be used to import and to solve these problems has disappeared.”