A young woman sits by a hospital bed as she gently strokes the hair of a withered figure. At first glimpse, it looks like it could be a child, but the gray hair finally gives a man away.
Lying, face down, is her 69-year-old father. His thin, frail, shivering body is nearly disappearing beneath a thick set of blankets. “He’s very cold,” she says, without stopping stroking his hair, barely turning to face us. “They gave a treatment and he said it was very cold,” she added, referencing the IV drip he had just been given.
Her father suffers from malnourishment, a plight that has become common among Venezuelans. He needs iron supplements, but Vargas Hospital in Caracas, where he is being treated, simply doesn’t have any. His daughter will have to get hold of the medicine herself or doctors say his hemoglobulin levels will remain low.
His immune system is compromised, yet medical staff tell us he shares this ward with patients with diseases so contagious that, in most countries, they would be isolated from the rest. Among them, medical staff tell us, is a patient with Covid-19.
It’s the dangerous overlap of the malady the impoverished Venezuelan state has imposed on its citizens, with a global health emergency that has largely ground the world to a halt.
Years of government mismanagement have left Venezuelan healthcare grossly unprepared and under-resourced to handle the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the past decade the country has squandered most of its oil wealth, plunging into a deep economic crisis and humanitarian crisis. Venezuela boasts the largest proven crude oil reserves on the planet, but a sharp drop in oil prices in 2016 sparked an economic implosion, leading to hyperinflation as well as shortages of basic goods, such as food and medicine.
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