The situation in Venezuela is grim.  When conditions take a turn for the worse those on the bottom of the social hierarchy feel it the worse, and of course those are almost always females.  I read in the Globe and Mail about Carmen Tovar and her now deceased daughter Nakarid.

“Carmen Tovar remembers the apologies. The doctors who stood around the body of her 17-year-old daughter Nakarid told her they were so very sorry, but the girl had died, and so had the baby she was trying to deliver. We did all we could, the doctors told Ms. Tovar – we’re terribly sorry.

Nakarid had high blood pressure all through her pregnancy, but the free clinic in their hillside slum on the edge of Caracas had no drugs to treat it, and her mother could not afford the wildly inflated prices in the private pharmacies. When Nakarid’s contractions started, on the night of Dec. 7, Ms. Tovar took her to a nearby maternity clinic, but they were turned away: no beds available there. Same thing at the next clinic. By the time they reached the third, Ms. Tovar, 49, was out of money to pay another taxi, and her daughter was disoriented, dizzy with a shattering headache. Ms. Tovar demanded a bed, and that clinic reluctantly took Nakarid. But she died a few hours after they reached the hospital. The doctors said she had pre-eclampsia; they lacked even a basic intravenous line to treat her.”

Most people in the wealthy parts of North America would have difficulty connecting the idea that becoming pregnant would be death sentence for (some) women.  Maternal mortality rates in Venezuela have significantly increased due to the lack of basic medical services and supplies.

“When Mr. Chavez was first elected, nearly two decades ago, Venezuela had some of the best public health indicators in Latin America. That reflected decades of steady progress: In 1958, at the start of the democratic era, 140 of every 100,000 women died giving birth, but the figure had fallen to 68 women by 1990. When the government finally released 2016 data a few weeks ago, the figure was back up to 112 per 100,000 women. “The health system is so deteriorated that we’re going back in time,” said Rayfael Orihuela, who was the minister responsible for public health in the last government before Mr. Chavez swept to power.

“What do I have when I go to deliver a baby? Only a pair of gloves and maybe a clamp for the cord,” said David Flora, who recently completed a two-year stint as the sole doctor in a referral hospital in Rio Chico, a town three hours’ drive west of Caracas. “If the placenta doesn’t descend, if I need to stop bleeding, if the baby has respiratory distress – I have no way to attend that. I have one bed and a pair of gloves and a line of women waiting at the door to deliver. Women arrive at 40 weeks pregnant with no file, they have had no prenatal care, and I know nothing about them. I don’t even know how many babies are in that belly because they haven’t had an ultrasound. I don’t even have a fetoscope to listen, so I don’t know the size of the pelvis, the size of the baby, if the baby is even alive. If the mother needs a caesarean, she dies.”

AAAAAChilling isn’t it?  If you need a C-section, you’re dead.
AAAAAWhy though?  What is happening in Venezuela?

   “Venezuela is not facing only one crisis but multiple interconnected crises.

  Key among them is the state of the economy. In January 2017, according to estimates by the Finance and Economic Development Commission of the National Assembly (AN), it was predicted that inflation will close this year at 679.73 percent.

  However according to the International Monetary Fund, this year and next year’s projection is even higher. The organisation estimates that inflation will reach 720.5 percent this year, the highest in the Americas, and 2,068.5 percent by 2018.

  However, the economic crisis is hitting Venezuela’s public health system the hardest. In the country’s public hospitals, medicine and equipment are increasingly not available.”

AAAAAOuch.

  “Venezuela depends heavily on its oil. It has the largest oil reserves in the world which, in 2014, had 298 billion barrels of proved oil reserves.Oil revenue has sustained Venezuela’s economy for years. During the presidency of Hugo Chavez, the price of oil reached a historic high of $100 a barrel.  The billions of dollars in revenue were used to finance social programmes and food subsidies.

  But when the price of oil fell, those programmes and subsidies became unsustainable.”

  During the rule of Hugo Chavez, the price of key items, food and medicines were reduced. Products became more affordable but they were below the cost of production.  Private companies were expropriated, and to stop people from changing the national currency into dollars, Chavez restricted the access to dollars and fixed the rate.When it became unprofitable for Venezuelan companies to continue producing their own products, the government decided to import them from abroad, using oil money.  But oil prices have been falling since 2014, which has left the economic system unable to maintain the system of subsidies and price controls that functioned during the oil boom years.

  The inability to pay for imports with bolivares coupled with the decline in oil revenues has led to a shortage of goods.  The state has tried to ration food and set their prices, but the consequence is that products have disappeared from shops and ended up in the black market, overpriced.  As many as 85 of every 100 medicines are missing in the country. Shortages are so extreme that patients sometimes take medicines ill-suited for their conditions, doctors warn.

  Given the long litany of woes, some analysts think there are two options before Maduro’s government: to default on its debt or to stop importing food.”

Add in government corruption and massive inequality and it isn’t a much of a stretch to see Venezuela on the downward spiral toward Failed State status.   Another revolution or return to military dictatorship seems to be in the dark future for Venezuela.  Either option though likely won’t help the poorest of the nation, their misery is guaranteed in the years to come.

[Source: Globe and Mail]

[Source: Al Jazeera 1,2,3]

 

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