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Venezuela: Human rights experts say health system in crisis

Venezuela: Health crisis

01 October 2018

GENEVA/WASHINGTON, D.C. (1 October 2018) – The health system in Venezuela is in crisis, human rights experts* say, citing the deaths of at least 16 children at one hospital due to poor hygiene, and the deaths of other minors due to a variety of conditions, including malnutrition.

Experts from the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) urged the Government to act urgently to mobilise the necessary and available resources, including through international cooperation, to restore the healthcare system in the country.

“We have now reached a crisis point in Venezuela,” said the experts. “Access to healthcare, a fundamental responsibility of the State, is in a serious state of decay. It is shocking that hospitals themselves have become a place where people’s lives are being put at risk.” 

At least 16 children, all under the age of five, have died at the University Hospital of Paediatrics Dr. Zubillaga in Lara state in 2018 only, due to infections caused by poor hygiene. There have also been reports of child deaths at hospitals as a result of malnutrition, acute respiratory infections, acute diarrhea, and other health conditions.

“We are deeply concerned that children in Venezuela are dying from preventable causes linked to the deteriorating state of healthcare facilities, the shortage of healthcare supplies and medicines, as well as the lack of effective hygienic and sanitary measures,” said the experts.

“We are further disturbed at reports indicating that medical personnel, journalists and families of the victim children who have denounced or filed complaints are harassed and intimidated.”

The experts also cited the situation of older persons who face extremely vulnerable situations vis-à-vis the closure of care facilities, and the shortage of medicines and food.

“We are extremely worried by the results of a study which show that older persons lose 16 kg a year on average due to food shortages in the state of Miranda’s care facilities,” the experts said.

Data also shows there is an 80 percent shortfall in medicine to treat high blood pressure and elevated sugar levels, two of the most common health conditions for older persons.

The experts welcomed the statement by the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights of the Inter-American Commission of human rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health and urged the State to ensure appropriate care for older persons.

For the last four years, UN rights experts have engaged in a dialogue with the Government to express concern about the persistent deterioration of the healthcare system in the country. They note that the Government has responded to some of the communications transmitted.


* The UN experts: Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expert: Ms. Soledad García Muñoz, Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environment Rights.

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

The Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights is an office created by the IACHR to guide, develop and deepen its work to promote and protect economic, social, cultural and environmental rights in the Americas, taking into account the interdependent and indivisible nature of all human rights.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Venezuela 

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Lucía de la Sierra, Human Rights Officer (+41 22 917 97 41 / [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: