“Triple threat: Resurging epidemics, a broken health system, and a global indifference to Venezuela’s crisis”

 

Venezuela is in the middle of an unprecedented, statemade, complex humanitarian emergency with severe and widespread social consequences. Its AIDS program, once lauded as a model, has collapsed, with chronic drug shortages and the lack of condoms or diagnostic tests putting thousands at risk of preventable diseases and death. People living with HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are dying at a growing pace, as hospitals and pharmacies are empty of most health commodities. Measles and diphtheria, once eradicated from Latin America, are also back in force. Food is scarce and malnutrition and starvation are spreading. In the past year, Venezuelan advocates took to the global stage, demanding urgent aid from the international community. The response has been stunning indifference, but action is urgently needed: it is a matter of life and death. Continuing to ignore this humanitarian disaster means that even more people will die, and the foundations of global solidarity in the AIDS, TB and malaria response will be further eroded.

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In September 2017, ICASO and ACCSI conducted a rapid assessment to collect data on the scope and extent of this crisis. We conducted interviews with more than 30 Venezuelan human rights, AIDS and health activists, service providers, academics and doctors, including some who risked their jobs in order to share censored health information. Data from key informants characterize a public health emergency: There has been a 205% increase in new malaria cases after the country declared elimination; there is almost a complete lack of access to TB screening for vulnerable populations such as prisoners and indigenous communities; and there are dangerously low (7%) levels of viral suppression among people living with HIV. Their personal accounts of anguish and frustration further underscore the urgency of intervention.

This report describes an unfolding disaster: a health system in shambles, with no availability of basic pain relievers, antibiotics, or first aid supplies. And while the world waits for the country to ask for help for a crisis they deny even exists, the rest of the international community does not need to wait years for the country to sink further into chaos, with the inevitable loss of life that would entail. This report provides an overview of the crisis in Venezuela and describes the resultant public health disaster while delivering an urgent demand for the Global Fund to intervene. It contains a series of quotes from key informants that were collected during the interview process and offers a series of recommendations.

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