As the daily number of COVID-19 cases reported in Venezuela continues to accelerate, reaching its quickest pace in recent weeks, concerns regarding the country’s health system have continued to increase. The country’s severe economic crisis has crippled the healthcare system, with many facilities lacking the basic supplies needed to prevent infection and treat illness, and continuing to suffer from constant blackouts, making it difficult to treat and care for patients.
The economic crisis has also led to severe shortages of medicines, personal protective equipment (PPE), bleach, disinfectant and soap, leaving doctors, nurses, hospital and clinic workers at risk. According to local reports, 71 health workers died between July 1 and August 16 alone. The country has also been facing a severe shortage of healthcare personnel due to the ongoing crisis. In recent years, many thousands of doctors and nurses are among the estimated 5 million Venezuelans who have migrated abroad, leaving the country with scarce human resources to face the pandemic.
Official figures of 68,453 confirmed cases and 564 deaths in Venezuela are relatively low compared with many of its South American neighbors—including Colombia, where 765,076 confirmed cases and 24,208 deaths have been recorded. After COVID-19 lockdowns in Colombia drove thousands of Venezuelan migrants to return to their country, Venezuela initially instituted an “open arms” policy and invited citizens to return freely. However, as infection rates have increased, the government decided to restrict the number of returnees permitted to enter the country, with only 200 to 300 Venezuelans currently allowed to return daily. This wave of returnees has overwhelmed the border region, meaning many Venezuelans may be stuck along the border for several days.
The pandemic has only further exacerbated the political and socio-economic crisis in Venezuela. Hyperinflation and increased prices have greatly reduced households’ access to food, medicines and basic goods. The population has become increasingly poor, with more people falling below the poverty line. In 2020, the poverty rate has reached 76%.
Food security and health are key priorities for the region. According to the World Food Program (WFP), one out of every three Venezuelans is food-insecure and in need of urgent assistance.
• In Venezuela, there have been 68,453 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of September 23, along with 564 deaths. Experts are concerned that this may be an underestimate, due to limited testing and reporting.
• More than 7 million people in the country need humanitarian assistance.