Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-founded international research and advocacy group, has released a new report quantifying the extent of continued food and medicine shortages in Venezuela. Entitled “Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis: Severe Medical and Food Shortages, Inadequate and Repressive Government Response,” the 78-page report calls for President Nicolas Maduro’s government to immediately begin accepting the available humanitarian aid from foreign countries in order to provide desperately needed food and medical supplies throughout the country.
Despite reports of overcrowded and understaffed hospitals, long lines to access limited supplies of basic food staples, and a dire shortage of basic medicines such as insulin or antibiotics, the Maduro administration insists that there is no crisis in Venezuela — that such reports have been concocted by political opposition groups as a means to undermine the Socialist regime.
“The Venezuelan government has seemed more vigorous in denying the existence of a humanitarian crisis than in working to resolve it,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Its failures have contributed to the suffering of many Venezuelans who now struggle every day to obtain access to basic health care and adequate nutrition.”
The group’s report includes interviews with over 100 Venezuelan citizens who chronicle their everyday struggles to provide for their families. One mother of a 9-year-old girl with diabetes called the “distress and uncertainty” in her attempts to find enough insulin medicine to treat her daughter’s condition “a daily nightmare.”
The U.S.-based Fox News Latino likewise ran a story earlier this month about a three-year-old girl, Ashley Pacheco, whose minor knee scrape turned into a staph infection that reached her heart and lungs due to a lack of available antibiotics. The girl survived, but only after months of medical treatment that wiped her family of their entire financial savings. Though she will suffer from permanent heart damage and a limp in her affected leg, doctors considered Ashley a “miracle baby.”
By comparison, Ashley was indeed fortunate. Estimates suggest that one in three Venezuelans admitted to a hospital will die of their injuries, where conditions are increasingly unhygienic and medicines are in short supply. Important, expensive medical equipment is routinely pillaged from hospitals and resold on the black market. Doctors have reported being held at gunpoint by aggravated parents when they are unable to provide so much as ibuprofen for their ill children. Fox News also detailed a 4-year-old child admitted to a hospital weighing only 13 pounds. He died of malnutrition within the day.
Such conditions in other countries would be unthinkable. In the United States, for example, an estimated 82% of Americans require at least one medication every day, while 29% take five or more. In contrast, reports suggest that up to 85% of all medication types are now completely exhausted and unavailable in Venezuela.
Meanwhile, offerings of humanitarian aid are sitting unused in warehouses in the U.S., Panama, Spain, and more. Worldwide, pharmaceutical companies generate an estimated USD$1 trillion — 40% of which comes from North America alone. Yet the current Venezuelan government refuses to accept donations or aid of any kind, according to Human Rights Watch. The organization hopes its latest report will shed more light on the realities of the crisis on a global scale.
“Without strong international pressure, in particular from the region, the Maduro administration may well fail to do what is necessary to alleviate this crisis,” Vivanco said, “and the dramatic consequences of the humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is facing may only get worse.”