(Washington, DC) – The Venezuelan healthcare system is grossly unprepared for the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, further jeopardizing the health of Venezuelans and threatening to contribute to regional spread of the disease, Human Rights Watch and the Johns Hopkins University’s Centers for Public Health and Human Rights and for Humanitarian Health said today. Ensuring that sufficient humanitarian aid reaches the Venezuelan people is urgently needed.
As of May 25, 2020, Venezuela had 1,121 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 10 deaths. The real number is almost certainly much higher, given the limited availability of reliable testing, limited transparency, and the persecution of medical professionals and journalists who report on this issue. Overcrowding in low-income areas and prisons, as well as generalized limited access to water in hospitals and homes, makes it likely that the new coronavirus will rapidly spread within the country. The massive exodus of Venezuelans, and the migration back and forth across Venezuela’s borders due to the pandemic, increases the risk of the virus spreading further.
“The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the breakdown of the health system have created dangerous conditions conducive to rapid community spread, unsafe working conditions for health personnel, and high mortality rate among patients in need of hospital treatment,” said Kathleen Page, a physician and faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Centers. “Venezuela’s lack of capacity to confront the Covid-19 pandemic may drive people to try to leave the country, further straining the health systems of neighboring countries and imperiling regional health more broadly.”