Venezuela used to have one of the richest economies in South America. However, since a drop in oil prices in 2014, oil being the country’s main source of income, Venezuela has only seen economic recession. This has affected all aspects of life, including healthcare, hitting cancer care especially hard. The government has taken some steps to address the multitude of economic issues, but we have yet to see positive outcomes.
The Venezuelan Economy
How has this affected healthcare?
According to the most recent government data, from 2014 to 2016, maternal mortality increased by nearly 66 percent. Between 2015 and 2016, infant mortality increased by about 30 percent. These rates can be attributed to a shortage of vaccines, basic medicines, and hospital facilities among other factors. Most hospital operating rooms are out of service and equipment is out of commission because of lack of replacement parts. The system as a whole is under staffed because doctors and medical students are leaving the country en masse.
How has this specifically affected cancer care?
The Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela estimates there is now an 85 percent shortage of medicine and they only have 10 percent of medicines needed for chronic diseases like cancer. These patients are being forced to buy their medications from neighboring countries or else to stop treatment altogether.
What Needs to be Done
It is already difficult to find basic supplies and medicines, so finding drugs for cancer treatment is nearly impossible. The United States government and other humanitarian organizations have sent aid, but all has been refused by the Venezuelan government. The Venezuelan government has yet to acknowledge the healthcare issues. New policies on currency control are expected to help decrease inflation and hopefully the Venezuelan government will recognize the urgent need to accept foreign aid in the future.