Crisis in Venezuela: the trance of being first-time parents in a devastated country

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A delivery costs US $ 1000. The option is a free maternity where supplies are lacking, and prenatal consultations are suspended.

The birth of a first baby It is usually a source of immense joy for first-time couples, although there is also some anguish due to the real or imaginary risk that a problem may arise during pregnancy. In Venezuela, however, fears may still be more overwhelming.

Ada Mendoza is a new 24-year-old mother who experienced her first pregnancy in the middle of lworst economic crisis of the history of his country and facing a pandemic that has disrupted the lives of millions of Venezuelans due to the new coronavirus.

Her partner, Leo Camejo, could not accompany her during the delivery due to the sanitary restrictions imposed to face the virus and neither had the possibility to go to a private clinic, so she had to be treated in a free maternity like other thousands of Venezuelans who cannot pay the more than a thousand dollars to which the process amounts.

Beds are not abundant in this health facility and medical staff is often limited. The priority is those women who arrive in labor very advanced.

“This is like a criminal … the nervousness is always there,” Leo told The Associated Press as he waited on the street in front of the maternity ward, eager to hear from Ada.

The two met three years ago thanks to football and because they are fans of Caracas FC, one of the most successful teams in the country. Life turned upside down when they received the news that they would be parents in a country in crisis and they had to face challenges that at times seemed impossible to overcome.

Their biggest concern – in addition to being prepared to identify when their baby is in pain, hungry, and checking that they breathe at night – was facing difficulties arising from the crisis. For example, they saw your prenatal visits suspended in public hospitals.

The risks for a couple like this are great in Venezuela, given that due to lack of personnel and resources, many public maternity wards – even before the pandemic – suspend prenatal controls. Therefore, it is not uncommon for some women to arrive on the day of delivery without having a prior evaluation, something essential to prevent complications.

For years the authorities they do not publish figures of mortality during childbirth, but organizations such as the Venezuelan Federation of Doctors and the NGO Doctors of Venezuela maintain that the risk for women in labor and newborns is high.

Maternity wards also suffer “like almost all the hospitals in the country, the scarcity of supplies, the lack of specialists,” Douglas León Natera, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation (FMV), told the AP.

According to figures from the FMV, some 30,000 doctors are among the approximately five million people who left the country as a result of the long political and economic crisis in this once-rich oil nation. Gynecology and obstetrics specialties such as neonatology or perinatology, in charge of controlling high-risk pregnancies, are among the fewest.

Other maternity wards barely have anesthetists for a handful of days a week, so “if their services are necessary, (women in labor) have to be transferred to another hospital,” León Natera said.

During pregnancy, Ada and Leo also had to travel crowded in buses, where they could hardly keep their distance to avoid COVID-19 infections, since many of these vehicles go out of circulation due to the high prices of spare parts.

The decrease in Work offers it also affected them.

Leo, who lives with Ada and seven other relatives in the populous neighborhood of Catia, west of Caracas, previously had many offers such as designer, but in recent months it stopped having a stable income due to the decline in economic activities in Venezuela, a country that is in its sixth year in recession.

At first, she didn’t know how she would pay for prenatal care at a private doctor’s office, where the cost of the visit averages $ 20. The minimum wage that most Venezuelan workers obtain is $ 1.10 per month.

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