Drug shortage won’t stop Venezuelan hospital from treating sick kids

Latin America

Drug shortage won't stop Venezuelan hospital from treating sick kids

International Childhood Cancer Day highlights the need for global action to fight the disease in children. In crisis-hit Venezuela, major shortages of food and medicine are affecting cancer wards.

CGTN’s Juan Carlos Lamas reports.

Security is abundant but medicine and food for those battling cancer are in short supply at JM de Los Rios Children’s Hospital in Caracas, Venezuela.

The nonprofit organization ACONVIDA tries to help fill the void. The group, organized by patients whose cancer is in remission, visits the young patients and their parents at the hospital once a week. They bring food while offering companionship and a dose of compassion – much appreciated but no substitute for medicine.

According to the Venezuelan Federation of Pharmacists, the shortage of medicine for high-cost diseases like cancer is nearly 95 percent. The scarcity of medicine plays a big role in the rising mortality rate of cancer patients in Venezuela which has increased 11 percent in the last year, according to the Anticancer Society of Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro recently launched what he’s calling an “ancestral health plan” meant to treat diseases with herbs and other natural ingredients. But critics said the program cannot address the real problems of children with cancer. Patients and their parents are turning to the international community as a last resort, for the medicine they hope will make these children cancer survivors rather than victims.