Humanitarian workers respond slowly to the crisis in Venezuela

Denial, ideology and repression prevent a general mobilization around this major humanitarian crisis.

Two months ago, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published data on the health status of Venezuelans arriving in Colombia and Brazil. "The combination of a failing health system and a widespread food shortage has created a humanitarian catastrophe that will only get worse if a solution is not found quickly", observed Shannon Doocy, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, who was part of the research team.

This was one of the first NGO notifications in France about the situation in Venezuela. "There is a lot of news about this crisis in Latin America and Spain, but it is true that the crisis is being outsourced by the media in France", says Pablo Haro Perez, at Secours catholique-Caritas France.

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Government-controlled food parcel system

The first reason is the difficulty of collecting information in the country. "There are few NGOs that are allowed to work in Venezuela, while the government continues to deny the crisis, because not calling for help and the data being patchy, not many people can help." He summarizes.

Caritas is responsible for screening malnourished children and publishes a newsletter on this subject every quarter. "This month we have decided to postpone its publication so that it will not be a problem at the municipal elections that have taken place", recognizes Pablo Haro Perez. Many Venezuelans now depend on monthly food packages that are distributed to families who have been able to get hold of the motherland card made by President Maduro. "These packages, which contain two kilograms of pasta, two rice, one liter of oil and beans, are only distributed with humanitarian aid from Russia and Turkey, says Pablo Haro Perez. In return, these two countries receive licenses to exploit gold, diamonds or coltan in the Amazon region. "

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Epidemics of measles and diphtheria

The small echo of this humanitarian crisis in France can also be explained by a remnant of the ideology. "The Bolivarian revolution, of which Nicolas Maduro is the heir, defended the poor and attracted sympathies all over the world.Today there is some kind of denial by some, notes CNRS researcher Paula Vasquez. I analyze the situation in a neutral way and they make me look like a Venezuelan opposition activist, which is not the case. Specialized health organizations should take a closer look at the current problems in this country. "

In 2015, the Ministry of Health suddenly stopped publishing weekly updates of health indicators. When the Minister of Health resumed its publication briefly in 2017, she was fired.

Existing data provide an alarming picture of outbreaks of measles and diphtheria, outbreaks of malaria and tuberculosis. HRW notes: "This is the only country with an average income in the world where many HIV-infected patients have been forced to stop treatment because of the widespread shortage of antiretroviral drugs."

Pierre Tick