For residents of South Florida — where thousands of Venezuelans live — it may be hard to fully comprehend the impact of a crumbling societal infrastructure under Nicólas Maduro’s regime.
That country’s ongoing economic crisis has sparked a public-health emergency that has claimed the lives of countless Venezuelans and deprived others of treatment and care because of the needless lack of basic medical material, from gloves to antibiotics.
As usual, a personal story can better help tell the bigger story.
In a nutshell, a simple knee scab turned into a near-tragedy for 3-year-old Ashley Pacheco. It was a life-threatening situation that never should have been and highlights the pitiful state of Venezuela’s health system.
It all began when Ashley fell and skinned her knee while playing with her brother. Her parents thought it was a run-of-the-mill childhood injury. They cleaned the wound with alcohol, and life went on.
But a few days later, the wound was infected, and the little girl had to be taken to the hospital. To her parents’ horror, they were told that the hospital did not have the antibiotics to fight the infection that had attacked Ashley’s knee. To save their daughter’s life, the girl’s parents rushed from hospital to hospital in Caracas in search of the medicine — simple antibiotics that are so routinely available in our community.
Ashley’s condition worsened to the point that one of her lungs collapsed, invaded by the bacteria from the knee infection. Suddenly, she had problems breathing and was placed on a borrowed ventilator, but without antibiotics, her lungs were under attack. Finally, a good Samaritan, not a hospital, donated medicine that had gone unused after the death of her son.
In the end, Ashley recovered, but now her parents fear that since she now appears to have a damaged heart valve, she might need surgery to repair it.
All of this because of a skinned knee.
Mr. Maduro’s government stubbornly insists that Venezuela’s health crisis is an insidious invention of the opposition. But the government itself has reported that one of every three people who last year entered a public hospital died. And Venezuela’s national association of pharmacies reports an astounding 85 percent shortage of medicines.
It’s all part of Venezuela’s crumbling economy. Oil prices, the main source of income for Venezuela, are falling, dealing a terrible blow to government finances, and like the lack of other basic needs such as food and electricity, blame for such hardship falls squarely at the feet of Mr. Maduro and the irresponsible leadership of his administration.
Indeed, in January, the country’s opposition threw a spotlight on what it called a humanitarian health crisis because of the shortages of medicine and medical equipment, in addition to deteriorating public hospitals.
Mr. Maduro’s response? Deny, deny, deny. The president rejected foreign assistance, calling it interference in the nation’s internal affairs. Well, as long as Mr. Maduro’s pride isn’t wounded. He’d have trouble finding treatment.
Venezuelans are dying from government negligence. The health crisis that Mr. Maduro will not acknowledge is putting Venezuelans’ lives in the crosshairs, lives like that of Ashley Pacheco. Her simple injury almost claimed her life because of the irresponsibility of a regime that won’t admit its approach is the wrong prescription for survival.