Venezuela: Health Emergency Six-month update (MDRVE004)

Situation Report
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Description of the context Venezuela continues to face a complex situation in which access to basic services, especially health (promotion and prevention of communicable and non-communicable diseases, diagnosis and treatment), mental health, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions remain critical. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has reported outbreaks of preventable diseases, such as diphtheria, measles and malaria, as well as an increase in tuberculosis in Venezuela. To reduce the spread of disease, essential healthcare is needed for the population with the highest levels of vulnerability. Population needs change with seasonal shifts; as the rainy season has begun, mosquito-transmitted diseases have generated an impact on the healthcare context.

This situation has also affected the hospital network of the Venezuelan Red Cross (VRC). The National Society, which is part of the health system through the provision of services in its 8 hospitals and 33 outpatient clinics, continues to contribute to efforts to provide health services to the Venezuelan population.

As a consequence of the nationwide power cuts that have occurred since March 2019, the health system has experienced a collapse. This is especially notable in emergency services, as well as for equipment such as dialysis machines, refrigeration, ventilators, among others.

Energy outages also affect the water supply, as the supply depends entirely on electric pumps. Access to water is one of the greatest challenges facing Venezuela, it is common for communities to receive water only once a week, which increases the risks faced by the most vulnerable populations such as children and adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, and the elderly. To date, electricity service remains fluctuating, especially in states outside the capital.

This situation is compounded by fuel shortages, which have been aggravated by a reduction in imports and insufficient local production. This has hindered access to essential services and people's livelihoods, including the transport sector, which adds to the population's challenges in accessing health services and water resources.

Recent data published by the Central Bank of Venezuela indicate that the Venezuelan economy has contracted by 52 per cent between 2013 and 2018. In the same period, non-oil imports fell 81 percent. Other data shows a sharp drop in the country's oil exports from 85 billion US dollars in 2013 to 30 billion US dollars in 2018.

The National Consumer Price Index shows that food and other commodities have had cumulative inflation of more than 1,000 per cent between December 2018 and April 2019. This hyperinflation is deepening the loss of purchasing power and limiting access to basic goods. According to August estimates from the Documentation and Analysis Centre for Workers (Centro de Documentación y Análisis para los trabajadores), a Venezuelan requires 134.5 minimum wages (40,000 Sovereign bolivar- BsS) to purchase a food basket for an average family of five, which means that the monthly minimum wage (equivalent of 1.90 US dollars) has an average purchasing power of only 1.1 per cent of the minimum food basket. Although food and related products may be available in markets, many people, especially those with lower incomes and the most vulnerable, cannot access these due to high prices.

Remote communities, including those in border areas and indigenous communities, do not receive sufficient assistance to cover their basic needs. It is essential to continue the planned implementation, as well as expand the range of actions to address disease outbreaks and increase comprehensive care for priority conditions, physical and mental health.

The overall situation pushes many people to continue to leave the country without being properly informed of the risks associated with migration, including the risk of being victims of trafficking and/or sexual and labour exploitation. According to estimates by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in their 5 September 2019 report, approximately 4.3 million Venezuelans have emigrated, which places the country second, after Syria, in the global ranking of people displaced across international borders.

This Appeal continues to support the VRC in facilitating access to health for the Venezuelan population by fulfilling its mandate and ensuring that all actors understand the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, especially those of impartiality, neutrality and independence, and seeks to continue mobilizing financial support for the purchase and distribution of medicines and medical supplies to ensure the availability of services at primary and specialized levels.