So sad. So preventable. And yet there are far too many people in our own nation who would vote this catastrophe on ourselves.
Even as Venezuela disintegrates, state media continue to paint a rosy picture of the country’s health service. Officials take to the airwaves each day to wax lyrical about Socialist party support schemes for expectant mothers and the poor.
One recent propaganda video boasted: “If there is one area where you feel and live the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution, it’s precisely in the field of healthcare, from which Venezuelan men and women were excluded for so many decades.”
President Nicolás Maduro claimed earlier this year: “The people’s health is our priority.”
A visit to the hospital where Victoria Martínez spent her final days suggests otherwise.
The burns unit is filled with bandaged toddlers who have stumbled into wood fires or been burned by kerosene lamps – increasingly common sources of fuel and light.
In the paediatric ward upstairs, mothers nurse emaciated babies – socks dangling from their tiny ankles, bones protruding through their flesh – who cannot be hydrated because the hospital cannot even provide a catheter.
One doctor asked: “What blame do these children have for having been born into the wrong era?”
Another recent report noted that 53% of Venezuelan operating theatres were now closed, 71% of emergency rooms could not provide regular services and 79% of hospitals lacked a reliable water supply.
Meanwhile, medical professionals were joining a historic exodusoverseas: at least 22,000 Venezuelan doctors – 55% of the total – reportedly abandoned the country between 2012 and 2017.
Lesbia Cortez, a healthcare worker at the Catholic charity Cáritas, said: “There are virtually no specialists left.” She estimated that 70% of those she studied with at medical school now practised in Colombia, Argentina or Chile.
She said: “You can’t find a endocrinologist because they’ve gone; a dermatologist because they’ve gone; an oncologist because they’ve gone. The people who work in the dialysis units aren’t there because they’ve left the country too.