Venezuela’s Twitter Users Unite for Children’s Health Care

EspañolHundreds of citizens, artists, and celebrities in Venezuela have shared photos on Twitter using the hashtag #HospitalJMencrisis and the phrase “Children have a right to health care,” as a way to demand that the national government give proper medical care to children and teens.

The campaign targets Caracas J.M. de los Ríos hospital, one of the main facilities for child care in Venezuela. However, for years doctors have been calling attention to the worsening conditions that limit their ability to treat children, due to the lack of basic medical supplies, specialists, and proper infrastructure.

A campaign conducted by NGOs CECODAP, the Network for Child and Adolescent Human Rights (REDHNA), and the Light and Life Foundation found that, between 2002 and 2013, the hospital went from having 420 beds to only 178, and that of the seven operating rooms — that opened after five years of construction — only two are actually usable due to a lack of anesthesiologists.

It is difficult to imagine such conditions in a country that is the world’s 12th largest oil producer, with the most crude oil reserves in the world, and the third largest oil provider to the United States.

The lack of available services at the hospital means that the hospital’s surgery waiting list is more than 5,000 children long. Of these children, 65 percent are not even from Caracas and must travel from other parts of the country, where hospital services and infrastructure are even worse.

An El Nacional investigation revealed that the Venezuelan Health Department’s 2013 Annual Financial Report allotted more than US$5 million to improve health services in the Venezuelan state of Portuguesa last year. Despite this, there was no available treatment for a newborn with meningitis, according to the article.

The article also reports that three court rulings have recognized violations of children’s rights to health at J.M. de los Ríos hospital, one from 2011 and two from 2004. In June 2012, CECODAP denounced the hospital’s failings before the Ombudsman’s Office, but they have not received a response.

As part of the campaign, the NGO coalition called for action from the Judicial Circuit for Child and Adolescent Protection to respect the right to life and health care.

The situation at J.M. de los Ríos is not unique. The majority of hospitals in other parts of the country are in similar conditions – or worse. On their Twitter page, CECODAP wrote about the severe lack of cardiology care in Zulia (a state in the far west of Venezuela) and in Eastern Venezuela, where there is not a single hospital that can perform heart surgery.

Through Twitter, these organizations have garnered much support. Their campaign includes hundreds of pictures of users holding signs with the phrase, “Children have a right to health care #HospitalJMencrisis.”

Translated by Laura Weiss.

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