In the state of Zulia, the energy collapse occurred as a result of the general crisis in Venezuela since 2013, which is also the biggest in history
Zulia is the hottest state in the region, but in over six years of electrical emergency it has become a hell that takes lives in every prolonged blackout.
The energy collapse in Venezuela has caused one of the worst moments of the human rights crisis. Preventable deaths, children not being able to go to school, internal displacement and the exacerbation of forced migration are just a few of the struggles citizens must deal with, from the first time the power went out at the same time all over the country.
In the state of Zulia, the energy collapse occurred as a result of the general crisis in Venezuela since 2013, which is also the biggest in history. However, the situation worsened after an alleged theft of cables that left all of Maracaibo (the country’s second most important municipality)2 and its surroundings without electricity in 2017. Since then, short and long term blackouts have been reported. These also cause the suspension of water supply, failures in telephone coverage and Internet access, among other basic services.
Diseases worsening in the dark
Milagros Urdaneta is the mother of a 20-year-old young man with hemophilia, a disease her son has had since he was 6 months old.
“The lack of electricity in the state has only increased the chances of my child becoming part of the preventable death toll in the country at any time,” says the anguished mother as she explains that the young man is not going to school and cannot move because he has no treatment.
Hemophilia is an inherited bleeding disorder in which the blood does not coagulate properly. This can cause spontaneous bleeding after surgery or injury. The lifelong treatment consists in replacing the missing clotting factor so that the blood can clot properly. This treatment must be kept well refrigerated because it loses its effectiveness if heated.
“There’s no treatment, with or without electricity. Hospitals have told us that the clotting factor has not been purchased since 2015. Now not only do we live in fear every time my son has a hemorrhage or when he suffers severe pain that leaves him paralyzed in bed, without being able to walk, but we have to manage when there is no electricity, which is most of the time. We have to deal with high temperatures and dark nights with insects.”
Mrs. Urdaneta remarks that electricity is vital, an essential service to live with dignity , and that people with chronic illness in Zulia state are vulnerable without it.
“All of this is unfair. We are forced to live in this situation and I don’t even know what to say to my son to explain the reason for the hasty deterioration of his quality of life. There are no words to explain so much suffering.”
Luis García’s life is no different, since he also has severe hemophilia A. The weakening of his knees prevents him from moving.
“I am always looking forward to the end of this situation, so we can go back to enjoying all the rights that we once had. The rights we achieved through struggle. I regret that many people have died because of the medicine shortage and that those of us who are still alive are more likely to die given these long power outages.”
Darkness and deaths
According to the World Health Organization, one out of five adults has high blood pressure, a disorder that underlies nearly half of all deaths from stroke or heart disease. Complications of hypertension cause 9.4 million deaths worldwide each year. In Zulia, due to the electricity crisis, the hypertensives are even more at risk of death.
Érika Seiler has always lived in Maracaibo. She has had high blood pressure for more than six years. Today she is forced to survive temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius.
“In addition to the fact that I suffer from high blood pressure, I am asthmatic, and if we add to that the huge electricity problem, the fear of something serious happening to me increases. I don’t find the medicines I need. Since we are in economic crisis, they have to be bought in Colombia and their prices render them unaffordable. Now, with this power issue, it is impossible to have them”.
The absence of transportation forces Zulians to walk for miles to buy food and medicines. Many cannot refrigerate them and only buy what they can consume during the day.
“Zulia suffers daily 18-hour power rationing. At night we must take the mattresses out to the porch and sleep outside the house. My daughter, my son-in-law and a 4-year-old baby live with me. This is one more thing for me to worry about, because my granddaughter is too young.”
“I live in the Parroquia Bolívar. Every day I babysit my granddaughter because she doesn’t have school because of the electricity problem. I also keep an eye out for the water supply because that’s another serious problem. We haven’t had water for over two months, waiting for the supply company to send cisterns. The Community Council says that there won’t be water for “ opposition supporters “ and of course that we are, because we are opposed to living in misery,” she said, explaining that her life changed drastically since the blackouts became worse.
In the abyss of darkness
Undoubtedly, life for Zulians is not dignified. Basic services collapsed quickly and power failures turned normal human routines into a silent tragedy.
Zulians can no longer buy foods such as meat, fruit, cheese or vegetables because they spoil. They live from day to day. They don’t sleep and when they manage to, the power goes out again.
It is urgent that the competent authorities work to guarantee the human rights of these people. Dignified living can only be achieved through the access to and use of basic services and the appropriate conditions they provide to meet basic needs.
Tags: Venezuela, Zulia, Emergency, Human Rights.
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