May 2016 – VENEZUELA – Venezuela is struggling both economically and politically, facing massive food shortages, regular blackouts, skyrocketing inflation and an increasingly dire public health situation. Hospitals lack beds, antibiotics, medical equipment, doctors, even running water. U.S. intelligence officials said Friday that the country may be on the verge of a crisis. Just hours later, President Nicolas Maduro declared a 60-day state of emergency to “stabilize our country, and confront all the international and national threats against our fatherland.” –Here and Now
The economic crisis in this country has exploded into a public health emergency, claiming the lives of untold numbers of Venezuelans. It is just part of a larger unraveling here that has become so severe it has prompted President Nicolás Maduro to impose a state of emergency and has raised fears of a government collapse.
Hospital wards have become crucibles where the forces tearing Venezuela apart have converged. Gloves and soap have vanished from some hospitals. Often, cancer medicines are found only on the black market. There is so little electricity that the government works only two days a week to save what energy is left.
At the University of the Andes Hospital in the mountain city of Mérida, there was not enough water to wash blood from the operating table. Doctors preparing for surgery cleaned their hands with bottles of seltzer water. “It is like something from the 19th century,” said Dr. Christian Pino, a surgeon at the hospital.
Here in the Caribbean port town of Barcelona, two premature infants died recently on the way to the main public clinic because the ambulance had no oxygen tanks. The hospital has no fully functioning X-ray or kidney dialysis machines because they broke long ago. And because there are no open beds, some patients lie on the floor in pools of their blood. It is a battlefield clinic in a country where there is no war.
“Some come here healthy, and they leave dead,” Dr. Leandro Pérez said, standing in the emergency room of Luis Razetti Hospital, which serves the town. This nation has the largest oil reserves in the world, yet the government saved little money for hard times when oil prices were high. Now that prices have collapsed — they are around a third what they were in 2014 — the consequences are casting a destructive shadow across the country. Lines for food, long a feature of life in Venezuela, now erupt into looting. The bolívar, the country’s currency, is nearly worthless. –NY Times