Venezuela is in the midst of an economic and political crisis. About a third of the children in Venezuela are in need of humanitarian assistance. Rayito de Luz, a nonprofit organization that provides basic necessities to children with cancer in the poorest communities in Venezuela, combats the lack of access to nutrition and health care that extreme poverty causes in the country. Here are five facts about Venezuela’s health care and poverty.
5 Facts About Venezuela’s Health Care and Poverty
- Poverty in Venezuela is extremely high. In 2019, an average Venezuelan earned merely 72 U.S. cents a day. Based on this income, 96% of Venezuelans live in poverty and 70% live in extreme poverty. This figure is significantly higher than the poverty rate in 2014, which stood at 48%.
- The child mortality rate has risen in Venezuela. According to UNICEF, the crisis that has devastated Venezuela has left children increasingly vulnerable. The under-5 mortality rate was over 24% in 2019, surging from 17% in 2017, reversing a downward trend that had been continuing since 1999.
- Child malnutrition is a huge problem. In 2016, the Global Nutrition Report stated that among Venezuelan children, the percentage of child wasting (low weight-to-height ratio) was 4.1%. In 2017, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World stated that Venezuela’s undernourishment rose to 13% from 10.5% in 2005. Additionally, a 2017 report stated that 15.5% of children showed some levels of child wasting, and 20% of other children were at risk of malnutrition.
- People are fleeing from Venezuela. In the four years of Venezuela’s crisis leading to the end of 2019, over 4.6 million Venezuelans fled the country. This is about 16% of the population, making it the largest migrant crisis in Latin America in over half a century. This means that medical professionals such as doctors and nurses are fleeing the country as well, causing a shortage of medical professionals.
- Venezuela’s health care system is failing. Venezuelan hospitals are struggling to stay open as they face a severe shortage in medicine and other health care equipment. Desperate Venezuelans must buy medicine off the black market in order to survive. With COVID-19, the already-fragile health care system is buckling under the weight of the outbreak. As of early March 2020, only 300 COVID-19 tests were available for the entire country of 30 million people.
Rayito de Luz
Since board member Zeanly Gomez founded Rayito de Luz in 2015, the situation in Venezuela has dramatically worsened. According to Gomez, many children in Venezuela are experiencing malnourishment with different illnesses. The organization provides food, medicine, clothes, toys and school supplies for the children in response to Venezuela’s health care crisis.
Gomez collects donations in Katy, Texas, where it puts items in boxes to ship to Venezuela. The donations take up to four weeks to get to Venezuela before making it to local organizations that distribute them to children with cancer and other illnesses.
With the goal of saving as many Venezuelan children’s lives as possible, Rayito de Luz has helped over 10,000 children in 2020 alone.
– Mizuki Kai
Photo: Wikipedia Commons