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  HOME | Main headline

VenEconomy: Cholera Arrives in Venezuela

From the Editors of VenEconomy

When, in November 2010, the cholera epidemic appeared in a Haiti already in ruins and then spread to the Dominican Republic, it was just a matter of time before this highly mortal disease reached Venezuela.

Cholera is an infectious-contagious disease that severely affects the intestines and is caused by a bacteria found in food and water contaminated by feces.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cholera is mainly associated “with insufficient access to salubrious water and adequate sanitation, and its impact can be even greater in zones where basic environmental infrastructures are damaged or have been destroyed.” The WHO also points out that countries in complex emergency situations are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of cholera.

Fears that cholera will spread are growing for a number of reasons. One is the proven incapacity of the Venezuelan health authorities to develop an effective health policy in recent years and the lack of epidemiological prevention programs, a state of inefficiency that has resulted in infections-contagious diseases that had formerly been controlled or disappeared altogether reappearing and becoming entrenched in the population.

Another major reason for fearing the consequences of cholera arriving in Venezuela to stay is that a high proportion of the population lives in places where there is no access to potable water or, what is worse, where sewage flows freely along paths and sidewalks owing to the lack of an efficient sewage system.

What is more, cholera is arriving at a time when the poorest sectors of the population are most vulnerable and when the heavy rains in November and December left thousands homeless and forced them to seek shelter in places without the minimum infrastructure for guaranteeing hygiene and health.

Cholera has arrived when the public schools are barely getting back to normal after the disaster the homeless left in their wake.

Cholera has arrived when the infrastructure of the majority of public hospitals is in ruins; when the health centers are out of medicines and materials; when hardly any of the Misión Barrio Adentro (primary health care system) modules are operating; and when the installed capacity of the private health centers is at saturation point.

Cholera has arrived when Venezuela is ranked alongside Haiti as the two countries in the region with the lowest economic indicators.

The WHO recommends closely monitoring the evolution of the outbreaks and implementing adequate intervention measures, as well as coordinating the different sectors involved and the cooperation of all interested parties in order to reduce the effects of cholera in the population.

So now it is up to Central Government, alongside the regional governments, health authorities, mayors, media, companies and schools, to undertake measures to work together to cope with the emergency, which also means carrying out an intensive education program to prevent the disease from spreading and taking innocent lives.

VenEconomy has been a leading provider of consultancy on financial, political and economic data in Venezuela since 1982.

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