Rise in Starving Children Puts Strain on Venezuela’s Hospitals

Venezuela (PanAm) – Doctors Now Have to Steal Food From Hospitals to Feed Their Own Families

The increasing shortage of food and other basic products in Venezuela, on top of inflation, is now taking its toll on the health of the nation — most notably, on its malnourished children.

Children frequently arrive to the San Felipe Central Hospital after having fainted from malnourishment, officials told the PanAm Post, and are given medicine to take three times a day,

Mothers tell physicians they don’t have enough food in their homes, even after rationing.

“Children under five months of age come in here with diarrhea and when the parents are asked what the child has been eating, they say mostly rice cream because they can’t get milk,” one hospital worker said.

The same source confirmed parents blame themselves because they don’t have the salary or access to staple foods to improve the situation.

“You can’t feed a five-month-old on rice,” the source said, “and it’s going to affect their long-term health.”

The source reported with concern that hospital personnel — from maintenance staff to doctors — have asked for help from the hospital in getting food for their own families, as the hospital has an agreement with state-owned state supermarkets for food delivery not normally available to the regular public. The source said there are situations in which employees have taken the food without permission and brought it home.

Though the hospital has the convenience of supplying food to its patience, it lacks many essential medical supplies it needs to keep patients alive — from yelco to oxygen tanks.

Hospital even lacks trash bags and cleaning products necessary for maintaining the most basic of hygienic environments. Directors of the hospital said there are no funds to buy these things, let alone more urgent medical supplies.

Doctors in the hospital following the healthcare situation nationwide noted that almost none of them have the protein patients desperately need.

“No chicken, no beef, no fish, none of that,” one of them said. “The patients get cheese, rice, fruit, but nothing that they need for recuperating.”

El Nacional published a report on Tuesday, June 7, in which it said the Ministry of Health has even stopped providing food to patients.

The story reported that three days after the Dr. José Marías Vargas Hospital in Caracas will be without food, the doctors had to treat a patient for a vascular lesion caused from hunger.

According to the newspaper, the patient preferred to postpone surgery because he was “the breadwinner of the house,” and had already been a month in the hospital. The doctors tried to persuade him that he could die from internal bleeding it it wasn’t treated.

Children dying of hunger

In the interior of Venezuela — more so than near its borders — the situation is unimaginably bad and worsening every day. Radio Fe y Alegría said two children have died from malnutrition in la Guajira in the western part of the country.

Ligia González, eight months old, died last Saturday. This Monday, two-month-old Elver González also passed. Both were critically malnourished, according to local media.

A study done this year by Venebarómetro found that the food and economic crisis in Venezuela has forced 90 percent of people to buy less food than they had in years past, and 29 percent of them to only eat three times per day.

The study also revealed that 70.5 percent of Venezuelans rated the economic situation as “poor” while 89.7 of those surveyed said they didn’t have sufficient money for clothes. Also, 79.6 percent said their income is insufficient for buying food and medicine.

 

This report prepared by Sabrina Martín for PanAm Post.