Improving Maternal & Child Health Outcomes in Venezuela
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President
In May 2016, the New York Times published a story, Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela’s Failing Hospitals. It chronicled the economic struggles in recent years in Venezuela and the devastating impact they’ve had on a collapsing health system as well as the failure of the government to provide adequate health care to its vulnerable populations, especially women and children.
A government report found the mortality among babies under a month old increased more than a hundredfold in public hospitals between 2012 and 2015. The rate of death among new mothers in those hospitals increased by almost five times in the same period, according to the same report. To make matters worse, the Venezuelan government has continued to refuse humanitarian aid from outside sources.
Last summer, MedShare received a visit from the Pirona family. Dr. Maria Pirona serves as the Director of the Wesley Medical Center, located in Cabudare, Venezuela.
Wesley Medical Center is a small, community-based clinic. As Dr. Pirona shared during their visit, they were overwhelmed with the needs of their town and dramatically under-resourced, particularly as they faced a number of Maternal and Child Health-related challenges.
They decided to partner with Venezuela Now, a small nonprofit organization in the Atlanta area. Venezuela Now discovered that they could ship one crate of aid at a time into the country without raising any red flags. This was especially important as a US-based organization that may be subject to increased scrutiny. Each crate would be delivered to the Wesley Medical Clinic for distribution among the broader community. While this process proved to be more tedious than sending a full container, it was the path available to them. By the time they came to MedShare, they had sent more than 20 crates over the past two years.
MedShare agreed to support their efforts by providing everything they needed to fill another crate, including 120 clean birthing kits, infant care products, PPE and other primary care supplies. Many of the supplies we distribute through our Maternal & Child Health Program were exactly what they needed to provide desperately needed health care for their community.
We heard first-hand from some of the recipients of the Clean Birthing Kits and medical supplies.
“My name is Franliannis Amaya and I thank God and the Wesley Medical Center for this delivery kit that they gave me. It has everything I needed – gloves, gauze, cord clamp, scalpel holder, etc., since in the health center where I went, Antonio Maria Pineda Central Hospital in Barquisimeto, there was nothing. The other girls who were there with labor pains had to buy everything since there are no supplies in the health centers. It was a great blessing that I had the joy of knowing that everything I needed was in the kit. Thank you very much!”
“I want to thank Wesley Medical Center for the donation I was made of a delivery kit. It was very beneficial as in public medical and maternity facilities, they currently do not have all the necessary supplies for a delivery or a C-section. In my case, I gave birth in the maternity of “La Carucieña.” It was very useful to have everything contained in the kit. If I did not have the kit I had to buy everything on my own.” – Dayana Torres
No doubt, something as simple as a clean birthing kit had a profound impact on mothers and the birth of their children. However, these issues exist not just in Venezuela but are also prevalent throughout the developing world and even in some pockets of the developed world.
Despite progress over the past two decades, in 2018 alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 6.2 million children and young adolescents under age 15 died, mostly from preventable causes.
MedShare’s Maternal & Child Health Program provides many of the necessary medical supplies and equipment required for the early detection and treatment of some of the most preventable medical conditions leading to maternal and child deaths. This support allows our partners to improve care for mothers and their babies before, during and after childbirth and will also support midwives (and other rural caregivers) by providing them with the essential medical products for a safe childbirth.
Working together with organizations like Venezuela Now and countless other partners, Medshare aims to:
- Decrease global health disparities as they relate to maternal and child health patients,
- Increase the capacity to effectively treat and care for more mothers and children in local health care systems,
- Strengthen global health systems so they are ready to effectively care for and treat mothers and children,
- Improve health outcomes for mothers and children, and
- Save lives of mothers and children in medically underserved communities.
Please join us in our efforts to help bring both mother and child home alive.