NEW YORK, 7 June 2019 – Fifty-five tons of UNICEF health supplies have reached Venezuela since the beginning of the year, the United Nations children’s organization said today. The items were distributed in 25 hospitals in the most affected states of Caracas, Miranda, Zulia, Bolivar and Táchira. They include midwifery kits, antibiotics and malaria treatment.
“One-third of children in Venezuela need help accessing basic nutrition, health and education services, according to preliminary UN estimates,” said Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communication, who has just finished a three-day trip to the country. “UNICEF has been working in Venezuela for almost 30 years. As the country grapples with the impact of a devastating economic and political crisis, we will continue to provide its most vulnerable children, wherever they are, with the humanitarian support they need. Children’s needs must always remain above politics.”
UNICEF is concerned that the current situation in Venezuela has reduced children’s access to essential services and increased their vulnerability, rolling back decades of progress. According to United Nations estimates based on official and other sources:
- Some 3.2 million children – or 1 in 3 – need humanitarian assistance;
- Under-five child mortality increased by more than half between 2014 and 2017;
- 190 suspected cases of diphtheria and 558 suspected cases of measles have been recorded since the beginning of the year.
At a health care center in the outskirts of Caracas, Escudero met with health workers and mothers who spoke of the daily challenges of giving, and receiving, medical care.
“People I spoke to painted a very grim picture of the health situation in the country,” Escudero said. “Many doctors and nurses have left the country. Medical centers are functioning at minimum capacity due to the shortage of medicine. Lack of spare parts has grounded mobile health units and ambulances. Pregnant women, many of them too young and anaemic, are struggling to get the care they need. With worsening fuel shortages, they are sometimes not even able to get to the health centers. Women in labour need to bring their own midwifery supplies when they check into the hospital. For a country that made remarkable progress for decades on the quality of its health care, this is quite dramatic.”
The recent shipments of heath supplies raise to nearly 200 tons UNICEF’s humanitarian assistance in the country in the past year. Working with partners on both sides of the political spectrum, UNICEF has, so far this year, provided:
- Over 400,000 people with access to safe drinking water and an additional 25,300 people with water, sanitation and hygiene services in health centers, schools and other learning and child-friendly spaces.
- Nearly 75,000 children under 5 with micronutrient supplementation and an extra 3,500 with outpatient treatment for acute malnutrition.
- Deworming tablets for 4.3 million children and pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Nearly 9 million doses of the diphtheria vaccine, 176,000 doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, and 260,000 doses of the yellow fever vaccine for a national immunization campaign.
- More than 260 education kits for 150,000 children in public schools.
- Psychosocial support for nearly 10,000 children and young people.
“We are barely scratching the surface,” Escudero said. “Millions of children need to be immunized, go to school, drink safe water and feel protected. We have plans in place to further scale up our response, but we need increased flexible funding that would allow us to reach the children in need with the services they need.”
UNICEF has strengthened its presence on the ground, with offices close to the borders with Colombia and Brazil, making it one of the agencies with the biggest operational footprint in the country.
UNICEF’s funding requirements have increased, with plans to provide more vaccines, rehabilitate the water and sanitation system, provide malnutrition treatment and medical supplies, and make sure that children have the education and protection support that are essential to their future and well-being.
“We are committed to making sure that we reach children in need with quality support in a timely manner and we rely on our donors’ support while we continue to increase our response and strengthen our monitoring mechanisms on the ground,” Escudero said.
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