Friday, February 23, 2018

The humanitarian emergency affecting Venezuelan people today keeps the entire international community concerned. Vivian Díaz, manager at Amnesty International Venezuela, said that Venezuelans live a recurrent violation of their human rights, especially in the areas of health and food

At the Amnesty International Venezuela’s press conference on humanitarian emergency, in the context of the Global Release of the Annual Report 2017/18, Vivian Díaz, Manager at Amnesty International Venezuela, said the organization has repeatedly denounced that the authorities have not been able to fully guarantee the right to health for the population. In the chapter on Venezuela, AI indicates that, according to the latest official data, the rate of infant death increased over 30%, showing diseases such as neonatal septicemia, pneumonia and diphtheria as the most common causes of death in children, and adults.

The Director of the Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health and Life (CODEVIDA, acronym in Spanish), Francisco Valencia, denounced that the situation of people with chronic health conditions is exacerbated as days go by, while the government insists on omitting the complex humanitarian emergency currently existing in Venezuela. "The serious reports are issued on a daily basis now. More than 300 thousand people are suffering devastating consequences on their health because of a 95% shortage of high-cost drugs and a 90% absence of complementary medicines for other conditions these people suffer".

Likewise, he highlighted that, since 2015, CODEVIDA and other organizations working for the right to health in Venezuela have denounced the intermittent availability of medicines in the Social Security and that it went on to a prolonged absence of drugs until its totality in 2016. "In 2017, we warned that the government should take urgent measures in international cooperation to avoid a devastating situation in 2018. Unfortunately, actions have not been taken, therefore, this year we have seen worryingly and with concern that irreversible damage to health and even the death of many people is being reported."

Valencia pointed out that, in 2017, 22 people with hemophilia and 5 with organ transplants died, and the concerns increase: so far this year, at least 30 people have presented organ rejection, which indicates they should return immediately to dialysis, but it is official that 35 units are closed because there are no filters or necessary supplies in health centers. "The government establishes as a state policy the omission of the humanitarian emergency and condemns to death thousands of people suffering from chronic health situations."


Without access to sufficient or quality food

In regard to access to food, Vivian Díaz, AI’s manager, reiterated Amnesty International's concern on the impact of the shortage of basic products for human consumption caused by the economic crisis. She also urged to hear civil society representatives who warn of the existence of the high number of children malnourished and at risk of malnutrition.

The coordinator of the Venezuelan Agrifood Network and the INNOVA Association, Juan Luis Hernández, argued that "we are in the worst situation of caloric and protein availability since the 50s". Among the less available items are milk powder, sugar, poultry meat, eggs, corn, cheeses, vegetable fats, among others.

Access to food has declined drastically in recent years, since 2015’s agricultural production has dropped precipitously and imports have also been affected by the scarce availability of foreign currency in the country. "Total imports have gone down 67% from the first quarter of 2016 to the fourth of 2017." Hernández revealed that, from January 2017 to date, inflation in food was 25% higher than the general inflation and the shortage of agro-industrial products is every time more widespread, with over 70%.

On the other hand, José Antonio Gil Yepes, Director of Datanalisis, indicated that, through a national survey of public opinion, 92.1% of respondents negatively assess the situation of the country and recognize the reason of the main problems are the high cost of living, food shortages, corruption and crime.

According to the survey, 4.5% of respondents eat once a day and 37.8% eat twice; also, more than 70% reported that the amount of food they eat is insufficient and unsatisfactory. Regarding to the health situation, 53.8% had the need to take medicines, but, out of these, 79.7% did not buy any due to the high costs. Similarly, 50.4% have not been able to find the medicine they needed and only 15.4% have obtained all of them, with difficulty.


Economic instability and mass exodus

Manuel Sutherland from the Center for Research and Training for Workers (CIFO, acronym in Spanish) denounced that Venezuela currently suffers the deepest economic crisis in its history. During his presentation, he explained that inflation has reached unprecedented levels in the last 19 years, which has placed it as the highest in the world. "For the fourth consecutive year, Venezuela has the highest inflation in the world, which according to estimates by the National Assembly was close to 2,616% on 2017. The month of January 2018 suffered a 95% inflation and an annualized record (January to January) of 4.520% with an increase of 5.605% in food. It is expected that this year’s inflation will reach 13,000%."

The value of the dollar in the parallel market, which fixes almost all prices in the economy, increased over 2,500% in 2017, which has completely disintegrated the purchasing power of the people in the country. Similarly, he indicated that the industry and agriculture succumbed due to a highly overvalued exchange rate (exceeding over 9,000% in 2015) and surpassed 25,000% in February 2018.

Referring to the importation of medicines and food, he said that after the devaluation held from 10 to 25,000 bolivars per dollar (DICOM), 2,500 times more bolivars will be required. The State will produce it in a supplementary way (without financial support), situation that will cause higher inflation.

The humanitarian emergency is so complex that it has crossed the borders of the country, forcing millions of Venezuelans to emigrate in search of better living conditions. Amnesty International’s representative emphasized that the number of asylum seekers has increased exponentially, especially in countries of the region. Likewise, Colombia and Ecuador have received a large number of Venezuelan citizens who were seeking refuge.

The Venezuelan State must urgently recognize all the violations and deterioration of the living quality that Venezuelans currently suffer, agree to activate the international cooperation agencies, and allow the operations of assistance NGOs in order to apply timely and effective measures that will reduce the terrible effects of the humanitarian emergency and, consequently, guarantee the human rights of all without discrimination.