Humanitarian Emergency

By Verónica Colón-Rosario

Verónica Colón-Rosario is the Program Associate for the Latin American Program at the Wilson Center. Prior to joining the Center, Verónica worked with Telefónica Internacional USA. She received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, and after graduating joined the National Institutes of Health as a research fellow. She received her M.A. in Latin American Studies from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University and has also completed Georgetown University's Certificate in International Business Management.

Venezuela is facing the most serious political and economic crisis of any country in Latin America. The situation is extremely volatile. Riots have intensified over the last months, and the worst of it is likely yet to come. According to Datanálisis, President Nicolás Maduro’s approval rating has plummeted to 26.8 percent as of March of this year, and some 68.9 percent of Venezuelans polled said Maduro should be removed via a recall referendum. Public frustration comes as a result of shortages of basic goods and foods, scarcity of water, rolling power outages, skyrocketing inflation, a worrisome health care crisis, and increasing violence. Venezuela’s crisis has gone beyond politics; it is a humanitarian concern.

Case in point, last month the New York Times published a story documenting Venezuela’s failing hospitals. An accompanying photo depicted two men laying on blood-stained hospital beds in the emergency room, waiting for a scan from equipment the hospital did not have. The paper reported that newborns are dying daily, because maternity incubators are broken or shut down by constant blackouts. Water, an essential commodity, is getting scarcer as the hottest days of the month approach. Months can go by without running water in some households, prompting people to collect it in buckets. This creates the ideal environment for the aedes aegypti mosquito responsible for the spread of Zika, chikungunya, dengue, and other diseases, a current concern of many Latin American countries. There is no information on how many people in Venezuela have been infected. Those who are will have to deal with the fact that there is no equipment to confront this health crisis in this once relatively wealthy oil rich country.  

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