In Venezuela, a pandemic meets years of shortages and a broken health system

Source(s): The New Humanitarian

By Joshua Collins and Gabriela Mesones Rojo


President Nicolás Maduro imposed a mandatory nationwide quarantine on 16 March and banned flights from Colombia, Europe, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. Venezuela joined 10 other Latin American countries in imposing a complete travel lockdown.


But Venezuelans, already suffering from years of food and medicine shortages, are defenseless against the pandemic, said Fernando Gomez, a 54-year-old systems engineer in Barquisimeto, in western Venezuela. 


According to a National Hospitals Poll, 70 percent of hospitals reported intermittent water service last year, when 20 percent reported getting almost no water. The situation worsened during March and April, when two national blackouts left the country in the dark for more than three days. According to the survey, hospitals in March lacked electricity for 507 hours, two thirds of the time. 


Astrid Cantor, a Venezuelan medical surgeon currently working in Spain, wrote this week in The New York Times of the chronic shortages and highlighted unofficial figures that there are only 84 intensive-care beds in the entire country.


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