Venezuela’s collapse continues and its complex humanitarian emergency is worsening. The Catholic NGO Caritas has just reported that child malnutrition has exceeded critical emergency levels in two states, Vargas and Zulia. In Vargas state the level reached 22.7% and in Zulia, 17.6%. These are both well above the 15% emergency threshold set by international organisations. Children are close to starvation in Venezuela.
Venezuela’s food diversity score has worsened again, falling by 1% with families reporting that they consumed only five different types of food. Caritas stated that 90% of the households interviewed have insufficiently balanced diets. Less than 30% of the households surveyed consumed any foods of high nutritional value, such as meats, fish, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, showing that the bulk of the population is deficient in proteins, iron and vital vitamins.
In an indication of further deterioration of the health sector, patients from the Juan Pablo II" Dialysis Unit in Caracas staged a street demonstration last week to protest the absence of water in the unit, which prevents them from completing their daily dialysis. A patient interviewed stated: "we are not asking for crumbs, what we are asking for life, health, what we want is to continue living." Deaths of patients have increased, not only because of the absence of water, but because of a lack of medications such as intravenous iron that have not arrived for a long time.
Domingo Luciani is the last hospital in Caracas with a paediatric surgical unit that still functions; but of its 18 operating rooms only three are still in use. There are 500 children on the waiting list for urgent surgery. Electricity at the hospital is intermittent, and virtually no medicines are available. Doctors at the hospital rely on donations to feed their patients. "Most of the children come to us in a state of malnutrition," said one doctor. Doctors give lists of needed medical supplies to visiting NGOs.
Giselle, of the NGO Comparte Por Una Vida which helps 35 public hospitals, said delivering medicines and other aid in person was the only way to guarantee it gets into the hands of those who need it. "The government doesn't deliver it, it keeps it or sells it in the black market," she said. Hospitals are guarded by the police and pro-government militias, who are on the alert for western humanitarian aid. In reality they try and steal the few medicines that are available in order to sell them on the black market. In the last few days military police raided Fundacion Mavid in Carabobo State and stole milk and medicines that had been donated for children with aids.
Meanwhile, the illegitimate President Maduro has been selling off what remains of Venezuela’s assets, mainly gold, in order to keep financing his military supporters and regime cronies. He announced that his priority was to make "sufficient investment for Venezuela" to strengthen its anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence system, and equip the militia with "the most modern missiles in the world."
Maduro continues to deny that there is a humanitarian crisis, describing it as ‘a show.’ Rather admitting that 3 million refugees have fled, he claims that there are “more than 10 million immigrants coming every year to Venezuela.” It’s a level of falsehood that should make even his last supporters in the west wince.
With Maduro in brazen denial and blocking the arrival of humanitarian aid, what is the international community to do? When a complex humanitarian emergency exists, international protection frameworks can give legal authority to international humanitarian intervention. Urgent action may be needed sooner rather than later if more deaths are to be prevented.
More information on the Venezuela Campaign can be found on their website.