The heartrending testimony of a Venezuelan doctor presented below is a reflection of the terrible problems people are still suffering from in this South American country, and of the humanitarian crisis resulting from the scarcity and high cost of medicines in particular. It comes on top of the failures in the national electricity supply system, which is affecting the hospitals and hampering the necessary treatment of patients.
In an audio message sent to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), a young doctor, her voice trembling with emotion and close to tears, spoke of her sense of impotence at being unable to save lives, owing to the lack of medicines.
She describes how, during her shift at the Central Hospital, she attended a little girl suffering acute peritonitis, after having already arrived at the hospital with a ruptured appendix. As a result, they had to apply the necessary treatment to extract the festering liquid, but they had no antibiotics for her subsequent post-operative treatment.
“Her Papa told me, with tears in his eyes, that he could not continue buying the medication, because each treatment cost 50,000 bolivars, and she needed three doses a day,” the doctor explained.
At present, the minimum monthly salary in Venezuela is 20,000 bolivars, so that the father of this little girl would have had to work and save up almost 8 months salary in order to be able to purchase a single day’s treatment with the antibiotic.
In her moving account, the doctor describes how, after cleaning up the wound, she went looking for the little girl’s father to explain to him the gravity of his daughter’s condition, and found him kneeling on the floor, weeping.
“On emerging from the operating theatre, after completing the procedure, I went looking for her daddy, but couldn’t find him, because he was kneeling down, weeping in a corner, with his head against the wall,” the doctor said. “I feel as though we are simply watching people die.” And she also berates the country’s political leaders for their inefficient work. “I don’t understand the politicians. This is affecting us all… We doctors can put up with being without light and without water, we can find a way of working around it, but I cannot bear to see our poorest people suffering and burying their children.”
On Tuesday, April 2, 2019, the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference published a message in which they reaffirm “the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights” and in their turn denounce the lack of respect for human rights and the “crimes against humanity” to which the Venezuelan people are subjected, including “the deliberate imposition of (harmful) conditions of life, such as the depriving of access to food and medication.
“Unfortunately this has been happening in our own country, beneath the complacent gaze of the authorities who have the responsibility of watching over the respect and defence of human rights.”
The bishops urge a redoubling of prayers for Venezuela, in order to achieve “the necessary conversion”. And they appeal to the Virgin Mary to “accompany our people on the Way of the Cross they are now walking, in the hope of the Paschal liberation that was achieved by her Son Jesus Christ.”