Children With Cancer Die Due to Lack of Medicines in Mexico

“The guilty must be punished,” said AMLO about the death of children with cancer due to the lack of medications; but he does not recognize the responsibility of his government.

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In Mexico, a child succumbs to cancer every four hours. But the health secretary says that it is not an emergency (PanAm Post photo montage).

Spanish – Parents of children with cancer blocked the Mexico City airport exit to protest the lack of medications. On Friday 30th August, they managed to get the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), to speak out about the shortage of medicines under his government, which has affected the patients, particularly minors.

In Mexico, a child succumbs to cancer every four hours. But the health secretary says that it is not an emergency. It is the leading cause of death in infancy. The shortage of medicines caused by Lopez Obrador’s policies aggravates the phenomenon.

“Those responsible must be punished,” the president said from the National Palace after the case of a minor with cancer who died due to the lack of medicines went viral.

The president announced that they were investigating companies that controlled the supply of medicines, rather than assuming responsibility. Lopez Obrador authorized a 44% cut in the budget of the Mexican Institute for Social Security resulting in the resignation of the director German Martinez. Martinez described the policy of “saving and excessively controlling health spending” as “inhumane.” “This measure cuts back resources for the poorest Mexicans,” he said.

Although the president claims that the cuts are part of his “republican austerity,” he dedicated the equivalent amount of 350 million Mexican pesos (18.5 million USD) to the promotion of baseball.

Lastly, Lopez Obrador allocated 44 million Mexican pesos (2.5 million dollars) to the program, the Youth Building the Future so that large companies can hire young people who neither study nor work. In other words, the administration spent money collected from Mexicans who do work for the benefit of those who do not.

50 % of cases are fatal, although 70 % are preventable

Although cancer is the leading cause of child mortality in the country, it has not received the priority it requires. More than 70% of cases are curable if treated early. However, the recent cuts only worsen the situation since the disease runs its course without drugs.

Mario Alberto Ornelas, a pediatric oncologist, confessed that he and his colleagues are tired of the current government. “It makes me very sad that patients have died due to administrative negligence,” he lamented.

In May, AMLO’s budget cuts recorded their first fatalities: there were thirteen stillbirths in Tijuana due to the lack of supplies and two babies died, and one woman suffered a miscarriage in Chiapas.

It is no coincidence that the current state of the health system has become one of the aggravating factors for AMLO’s declining popularity. His ratings went from 73% at the beginning of the year to 46.9% in June. The government’s popularity fell by 26.1% within seven months in office.

Bullets fill up the hospitals

The problem is not merely a lack of medicines. The infrastructure is not enough. Under the administration of Lopez Obrador, Mexico is living through its most violent year. The number of gunshot victims overwhelms doctors, and there aren’t enough hospital beds.

A baby has already died because of this shortage. Victims of gun violence, many of them in criminal acts, occupied the 28 emergency beds in the General Hospital of Tijuana. The baby died as there was no space to take care of him.

The parents of the babies in Tijuana as well as Chiapas did not know the cause of the death. Being in a deplorable condition, the hospital did not have the required supplies in the laboratories to do the studies.

Indigenous communities are affected the most

Twelve of the most marginalized indigenous communities in Mexico are the most affected by the health crisis. Since they are far from the cities, they depended on airplanes from the Prosperar program to reach a hospital within half an hour. However, Lopez Obrador canceled this program.

The health center in the ejido La Candelaria does not have the necessary supplies needed to care for patients from the Tzeltal indigenous population. Since the transition of government and in the face of austerity, they do not even have access to transportation. Community health centers have limited availability of medications and hospital personnel.

In his defense, Lopez Obrador said that drug companies “were surpassing limits and pushing prices. Last year they bought pharmaceutical drugs worth 90 billion Mexican pesos, and three companies sold 70 percent of the drugs to the federal government.”

He alleges “overpaying.” He maintains that despite having paid those 90 billion pesos in medicines and healing materials, “there were no medicines in health centers and hospitals. Also, he argues that the Mexican government will not allow corruption concerning the lack of medicines. “What kind of a society are we if the nurse, the doctor, or any citizen doesn’t decide to buy the medicine so that the child doesn’t lose his or her life,” Lopez Obrador said.

However, Susan Cabral Bujdud, the president of the Mexican Association of Aid to Children with Cancer (AMANC) in Zacatecas, reported that the federal budget cuts were the primary cause of the shortage of medicines. “Some medicines are very expensive, others not so much. But there is no access to those,” she said to the local media.

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