Monday, July 27, 2020

Venezuelan Healthcare and Covid-19

This morning, Chris Sabatini at Chatham House moderated a Zoom panel entitled, "How Prepared is Venezuela's Healthcare System for Covid-19." The participants were:

José Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch
Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Acting Deputy Director, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch
Dr Kathleen Page, Associate Professor of Medicine, John Hopkins University

The answer to the panel's title question is, as anyone paying even passing attention would accurately guess, emphatically no. There is no good news. There is no silver lining. A massively corrupt and uncaring dictatorship is letting people die and lying about everything. Doctors are washing their hands from the drips of air-conditioning units before doing surgery. Many hospitals don't have potable water. Aid is tricky and the gasoline shortage makes it hard to reach the interior of the country. We have no idea how many people have the virus and how many people have died from it. Repression makes it hard to find out anything. BTW, I had never heard the phrase "verbal autopsy" before. That's where we are in terms of data collection, down to trying to get information on demand for funeral homes, but even then people are afraid to talk openly. It's an onslaught of bad, but Covid-19 has distracted the world from the disaster.

What can the international community do? We need a truly multilateral effort with a common position. José Miguel Vivanco lamented the Trump's administration embrace of militaristic rhetoric, which makes things worse. The UN is barely paying attention.

John Hopkins worked with Human Rights Watch before Covid-19, and already last year warned that Venezuela was in a dire healthcare crisis.

Anyway, it was a really interesting discussion, but one that left me sad and frustrated.


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