Hugo Chávez's government promised medical care for all as a goal of “socialism in the 21st century”. Under Chavéz's successor Nicolás Maduro, the country is now facing a medical breakdown.
Medicines are missing
Eight out of ten drugs are no longer on the official market, including hypertension, cancer, pain, diabetes, and cold remedies.
The country's pharmaceutical association has been warning of a foreseeable catastrophe for months. There is a lack of medical equipment, hospital beds, and babies die from treatable diseases.
On Facebook, Venezuelans are asking for antibiotics and dialysis catheters, protective masks and chemotherapy drugs for cancer.
Avoidable child death?
Little Oliver Sánchez's case caused a sensation. The boy suffered from Hodgin lymphon, a cancer that affects the human lymphatic system. In February he demonstrated with a sign indicating his plight. It said: “I want to be healed. Peace. Health."
Hospitals refused to admit the boy because they had no medication and no vacancies. His mother said they hadn't been given drugs like epamine and antibiotics in Venezuela.
Oliver's picture went through social networks, and private donations made chemotherapy possible. But it came too late; the eight-year-old died after ten days in the Clinica Loira clinic.
The Hodgin Lymphon
The Hodgin lymph is one of the crabs with a good chance of recovery. A therapy that combines chemotherapy and radiation brings very good results in children.
It is unclear whether the boy would still be alive if his tumor were treated early. In any case, the opposition uses his death to polemicize against the government.
Medical doctor speaks of “Holocaust of health”
Douglas León Natera heads the Venezuelan Medical Association. He describes the medical situation as the "Holocaust of Health" and "Crimes against Humanity". The Maduro government would have "deep contempt for the most needy."
Chávez health care reform
Concern for the neediest was the focus of the “Bolivarian Revolution” program: at the turn of the millennium, Venezuelan doctors hardly cared for the poor in the barrios of the big cities.
The Chavez government therefore concluded a bilateral agreement with Cuba. The Misión Médica Cubana sent more than 10,000 doctors to Venezuela who worked in public practices, the Consultoris Poulares. The aim was to permanently replace these Cuban doctors with Venezuelan "Volksärzte" - through a new course in Medicina Integral Comunitaria, MIC.
Humanitarian aid between the fronts
The opposition is increasing the pressure on the Maduro government with daily demonstrations. Maduro sees the risk of a coup and declared a state of emergency; the government can thus act through decrees.
The side effect: NGOs that provide medical aid can be expelled from the country at any time if Maduro suspects they are infiltrating the state. The information about the medical emergency on site can easily be defined as a "national hazard".
Depending on the oil price
The background of the current emergency and previous prosperity is the oil price: Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves after the Gulf States, so it is the richest country in Latin America in terms of raw materials, and the welfare state of the "Bolivarian Revolution" worked in the time of high oil prices. The social system has collapsed since the oil price fell - Venezuela has one of the highest inflation rates in the world today and is on the brink of state bankruptcy.
Government and opposition are developing conspiracy theories about who is to blame for humanitarian misery: the "corrupt regime" or the "secret war of the CIA"? Both presumably contain a partial truth, but it should be equally valid for patients who are lacking medication.
Caritas Venezuela is now demanding that aid be distributed. The bishops in the border area with Colombia are also discussing with the state authorities in order to be able to care for the people who are particularly suffering.
Caritas Germany appeals to the government and opposition to allow international humanitarian aid. Philipp Lang, the Venezuelan representative of the NGO says:
"The country's food stocks are largely exhausted, and the majority of the population is dramatically undersupplied."
Humanitarian disaster in sight??
Lang fears the worst: “The president must allow outside help as soon as possible. Government and opposition must engage in dialogue to break the escalation of violence and militarization. Otherwise there will be a humanitarian catastrophe. ” (Dr. Utz Anhalt)