By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President
More than 5 million men, women and children have fled Venezuela since 2014 because of violence, insecurity, and threats aggravated by lack of food, medicine and essential services – making it the world’s second largest refugee crisis, after Syria. The country’s healthcare, local-market, employment and food systems have collapsed. The situation has been further aggravated by political violence and hyperinflation over the past several months. High rates of poverty have left Venezuelans and indigenous populations struggling for a decent life, with an estimated 7 million people vulnerable to disease outbreaks and other emergencies and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The scale to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected highly developed countries is a clear warning of the impact that it can have on developing countries with far less capacity. Indeed, cases are increasing rapidly in Venezuela, with few doses of COVID-19 vaccine available. In early May 2021, 202,578 cases and 2,226 deaths had been reported – a 45% increase in cases (from 139,545) and a 114% increase in deaths (from 1,038) in just two months since March 1, 2021. This unparalleled challenge to public health is amplified in contexts like today’s Venezuela, where essential medicines, basic medical supplies and qualified personnel are lacking and communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, diphtheria, measles and malaria are pervasive and maternal and infant mortality are on the rise.
This is where MedShare steps in…
“Thanks to MedShare’s support, our team distributed medical supplies equipment to vulnerable families in five states and the Distrito Capital in Venezuela.” – International Medical Corps
Medshare recently partnered with International Medical Corps (IMC) to address the growing Covid-19 outbreak and other realted health challenges brought about due to the poor health system infrastructure.
The medical supplies and equipment donated by MedShare complemented International Medical Corps’ health programming in 29 health facilities across the Distrito Capital, Bolívar, Falcón, Miranda, Sucre and Zulia states.
Distrito Capital (Caracas)
The Distrito Capital has been the most affected by COVID-19 and has passed 30,000 positive cases. On November 24, 2020, International Medical Corps’ Venezuela team distributed MedShare medical supplies and equipment at two health facilities, Dr. Leopoldo Manrique Terrero and Jesús Yerena. The health facilities have a considerable area of influence and serve as two of the main hospitals for the District’s nearly 2 million residents.
Bolívar State is Venezuela´s largest in size and has approximately 2 million inhabitants, according to the last census in 2018. It is home to 39,538 indigenous people, distributed among 455 communities. This population is estimated to have tripled in size since the 1990s, aggravating their ongoing unmet need for access to healthcare, electricity, safe water and waste management. Bolívar has a high risk of COVID-19 transmission as it shares borders with Brazil, Colombia and Guyana. With donations from MedShare, International Medical Corps partnered with the local organization Fomento del Desarrollo Popular and the regional Ministry of Health, to implement a mobile medical team in Bolívar. The teams provided medical care across 11 communities and healthcare consultations to 2,978 people (1,782 female and 1,196 male) in Bolívar State.
Ten health facilities – 1) Camurica, 2) San Antonio del Orinoco, 3) Sayusodiña, 4) Tadakwaña, 5) Chajuraña, 6) Entre Ríos, 7) Santa María de Erebato, 8) Kanadakuni, 9) Majadakuwe Mai and 10) Nichare – received medical supplies donated by MedShare, which included pill bottles, face masks, face shields, syringes and needles in October 2020 to support ongoing activities in Bolívar.
As elsewhere in Venezuela, new COVID-19 cases and an increase in hospital admissions have been challenging the state’s already weakened health sector. On November 30, 2020, International Medical Corps supported three health facilities, two hospitals and one outpatient clinic, with donated medical supplies and equipment from MedShare. Their team provided Wilfredo Medina Outpatient Clinic, located in La Vela de Coro city, and Ezequiel Zamora and José María Espinoza Maternal Hospitals, located in Punto Fijo city and Coro city, respectively, with bandages, gauze, catheters, disposable washcloths, gloves, facemasks, syringes, needles and more.
Miranda is the second most populous state in Venezuela, home to 3.7 million people. Most of its communities are low-income and have difficulties accessing basic resources and services due to scarcity of products, high prices and distance from urban centers. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the dire situation in most of the municipalities in this state as hospitals have a shortage of beds, medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).
In Miranda state, International Medical Corps supported two health facilities with MedShare-donated medical supplies and equipment – Dr. Domingo Luciani and Dr. Jesús Reggeti. Both health facilities serve as the main health centers in their respective municipalities. To support their work among this vulnerable community, International Medical Corps distributed an array of supplies including surgical drapes, catheters, blood collection sets, gloves, IV extension sets and more. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with support from International Medical Corps, the health facility has provided uninterrupted service – reaching more than 9,500 people in 2020.
“MedShare’s generous donation helped continue this support by allowing our team to provide sodium chloride solution, gauze, gloves, lancets, crutches, specimen containers and more.” – International Medical Corps
The majority of Sucre State’s public health facilities are functioning at low capacity due to the lack of medical staff, medicines, and medical equipment. The state is neglected in all senses, as it consists of a long peninsula with very remote communities situated all along it. Preventing COVID-19 transmission in this state is challenging as many people do not follow bio-security measures or even believe in the virus’s existence, despite the health authorities’ efforts to sensitize the population. In January 2021, International Medical Corps’ Venezuela team distributed donated MedShare items to Fundasalud, Sucre State’s Health Secretariat. By providing Fundasalud with items such as drapes, feeding kits, masks, gloves, IV extension sets, X-ray sponges and more, they can help fill gaps as they arise.
Zulia State is the fifth largest and the most populous state in Venezuela, with 4.7 million inhabitants. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the people of Zulia, especially those from the Guajira municipality, would cross the border to Colombia to access essential needs and to trade medicines and food. That access has been cut off during the pandemic. The precarious social and sanitary conditions, malnutrition of patients and poverty, together with the shortage of basic services such as drinking water, lack of supplies in hospitals and primary healthcare centers, have resulted in Zulia becoming a hotspot for COVID-19 cases with the third highest number of cases and deaths in the country. In Zulia state, International Medical Corps’ team visited several health facilities to conduct a needs assessment with Zulian health authorities. Through this assessment, International Medical Corps identified 12 health facilities across seven municipalities with severe gaps in the availability of medical supplies and equipment, and supported them with a variety of products donated by MedShare such as syringes, needles, personal protective equipment, crutches, clean birthing kits and more.
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has forced millions to flee. Those that remain face an increasingly dire political and economic situation and struggle to access basic supplies and services. Thanks to the the partnership with MedShare, International Medical Corps is on the ground providing healthcare and hope to this vulnerable population and providing the incredible feedback contained within this report. MedShare is grateful for its partnership with International Medical Corps and many others, as we collaborate to address this global health crisis with global solutions.