Responding to Venezuela’s Health Crisis

Venezuela’s political and economic crisis has dire humanitarian consequences, including a collapsing health system and severe medicine shortages. In response, the United States is pre-positioning medical supplies near the Venezuelan border in Colombia and providing emergency health assistance throughout the region for Venezuelans who have fled their country.

USAID Saves Lives
3 min readFeb 27, 2019
A patient in a room of the University Hospital in Caracas on July 19, 2018. Photo credit: Juan BARRETO / AFP

The Deepening Crisis

Since 2014, deteriorating economic and political conditions in Venezuela caused a catastrophic domino effect that has so far driven nearly 3.4 million people from this once prosperous country. As hyperinflation worsened and prices skyrocketed, infrastructure crumbled and basic services — including electricity, water, and sanitation — experienced major disruptions.

It was only a matter of time before Venezuela’s health system felt the impacts. By 2018, nearly 70 percent of Venezuelan hospitals reported regular power and water outages, and nearly 90 percent of hospitals reported medicine shortages.

Fabiana, a 35-year-old Venezuelan mother of three, left her family behind and fled to Colombia to earn money for her father’s cancer medication. Photo credit: Alison Harding, USAID/OFDA

“In Venezuela, you can’t find medicine. You can’t find food. It’s very difficult to eat. What you earn in a month is not enough to feed yourself for a month. If you eat, you don’t buy clothes for your children.”

-Fabiana, 35-year-old Venezuelan mother

To make matters worse, outbreaks of diseases that were once nearly eradicated — such as measles — have spread throughout Venezuela and across its borders. Between July 2017 and January 2018, approximately 6,400 confirmed measles cases were recorded in Venezuela. And a majority of the 17,000 confirmed measles cases recorded throughout the region in 2018 have been traced to outbreaks in Venezuela.

Pre-positioning Medicine and Medical Supplies

To help Venezuelans affected by medicine shortages, USAID began stockpiling critical relief supplies in Colombia, starting in February. These stockpiles include:

Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Bogota
Photo Credit: Brian Austin, USAID/OFDA
Photo Credit: Alison Harding, USAID/OFDA
Photo Credit: Stuart MacNeil, USAID/OFDA
Photo Credit: Alison Harding, USAID/OFDA

Providing health care to Venezuelans in the region

As the health crisis in Venezuela worsens, more people are arriving in neighboring countries in need of urgent medical attention. In response, USAID partners are also working to address rapidly growing health needs in the region by:

  • Administering vaccinations in border areas in Colombia and Peru;
  • Providing staff, equipment, and technical support for local healthcare providers;
  • Operating rapid response health teams and healthcare clinics in host communities; and
  • Conducting staff training to help build local capacity to prevent, detect, notify, and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Photo credits: (Top Left) Robert Fagan, USAID/OFDA; (Top Right) Alison Harding, USAID/OFDA; (Bottom Right) USAID Partner; (Bottom Left) Robert Fagan, USAID/OFDA

The United States remains committed to the people of Venezuela. Since Fiscal Year 2017, the U.S. Government has provided more than $195 million in humanitarian and development assistance throughout the region to support Venezuelans in need, as well as the communities that are hosting them.

Read more about USAID’s humanitarian efforts.

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USAID Saves Lives

USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance saves lives on behalf of the American people.