Crisis in Venezuela: who are the invisible victims of the pandemic

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They are patients with AIDS, heart disease or cancer who do not have care. Or even a traffic accident.

Venezuelan Teresa de Pedraza was watching television when she felt a discomfort that she immediately identified as a heart attack. Scared, she went to four hospitals in Caracas and the nearby city of Guarenas, where she resides, but in they all denied him admission. They were at full capacity attending cases of coronavirus.

“They did not let us in,” said the 58-year-old woman, recounting her specific experience at the Caracas University Hospital. “They had the doors closed, they didn’t let us in because it was a sentinel (center) for people with COVID-19,” he added.

Finally, De Pedraza was treated at the main health center in the depressed neighborhood of Petare, about 40 minutes from Guarenas and where the largest favela in the country is located.

Although she was not infected with COVID-19, this Venezuelan housewife was an invisible victim of the disease that plagues the world and paralyzes the economy.

If he had died because the heart attack was not treated, as it was later confirmed that he actually suffered, his case would not have entered the statistics of COVID-19 in Venezuela.

But she is convinced that the new coronavirus would have been, in part, responsible for her death, as it was for the poor healthcare she received.

Venezuela is one of the countries with the largest proven oil reserves on the planet, but this wealth under its soil does not prevent it from going through the worst economic crisis in its modern history, with high inflation and even fuel shortages.

The Venezuelan Parliament, which controls the opposition, said in 2018 that the country is suffering a “complex humanitarian emergency,” a state that, according to detractors of President Nicolás Maduro and non-governmental organizations, the country has not yet left.

“The problem is that the COVID-19 emergency is developing within another emergency, which is the complex humanitarian emergency,” Alberto Nieves, executive director of the NGO Acción Ciudadana Contra el Sida (ACCSI), told Efe.

According to Nieves, between 26,000 and 28,000 people with HIV have seen their treatments or consultations interrupted due to the action of COVID-19 in health personnel in Venezuela.

To exemplify this point, Nieves refers that an immunology center in Caracas, where an antiretroviral drug pharmacy operates and medical consultations are offered to people with AIDS, was closed for two weeks because staff were infected with the new coronavirus.

“There, two health workers were affected and the entire center was immediately closed, because all health personnel entered as suspects,” he said.

The same thing happened, Nieves said, in another health center in the coastal state of La Guaira – close to Caracas – where there is also a pharmacy and people with HIV are consulted.

“It was closed for three months,” said the activist, after the director’s contagion was found.

“It is not possible for a pharmacy to close it and there is no relief staff, it is not possible for an HIV consultation to close it because the staff was infected, they were infected (COVID-19) and there is no one else who can attend them “he added.

According to union leader Mauro Zambrano, in Venezuela cardiovascular diseases and others such as cancer “have never been treated properly.”

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