(New York, May 26, 2020) – The Venezuelan healthcare system is grossly unprepared for the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, further jeopardizing the health of Venezuelans and threatening to contribute to regional spread of the disease, Human Rights Watch and the Johns Hopkins University’s Centers for Public Health and Human Rights and for Humanitarian Health said today. Ensuring that sufficient humanitarian aid reaches the Venezuelan people is urgently needed.
As of May 15, 2020, Venezuela had 455 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 10 deaths. The real number is almost certainly much higher, given the limited availability of reliable testing. Overcrowding in low-income areas and prisons, as well as generalized limited access to water in hospitals and homes, makes it likely that the new coronavirus will rapidly spread within the country. The massive exodus of Venezuelans increases the risk of the virus spreading further.
Doctors across the world are struggling to respond to COVID-19. We’re working very hard and doing the best to try to save as many lives as possible. Imagine trying to do this in a country where the system has almost collapsed before COVID-19 even arrived?
That is exactly how health care workers in Venezuela are having to work. Water shortages in many public hospitals have meant patients and staff have to bring their own water for drinking, medical procedures, and, of course, washing their hands – the main defense against the spread of COVID-19.
Like in many countries, facemasks and gloves are also scarce, even in hospitals that have been designated officially for the COVID-19 response. But here there are additional obstacles. Doctors and nurses we spoke to said that soap and disinfectants are virtually nonexistent in their clinics and hospitals. And because inflation has risen in Venezuela and salaries have been devalued, it has become increasingly difficult for healthcare workers to buy their own supplies.
The breakdown of the health system in Venezuela has created unsafe conditions for health care workers and patients. These conditions can increase the spread of COVID-19 and could lead to more deaths
The UN, US the Lima Group and the European Union should press Venezuelan authorities to urgently let UN humanitarian workers provide sufficient aid and help with healthcare to prevent the pandemic from spreading further.