In Venezuela a small scratch can become a matter of life and death. Lack of antibiotics, put three-year-old Ashely’s life at risk and almost led to her leg being amputated. As her mother Oriana explained, it all started with a simple grazed knee, which she had even cleaned with alcohol: “She fell down and scratched herself. I mean, we never expected that a scratch would cause all of this. Then, two weeks later, she had a reaction. She got arthritis, septic arthritis.”
Ashley’s pediatrician, Dr Richard Rangel talked about how Ashley’s situation became so drastic, so quickly: “Maykelis (Ashley) Pacheco is a three-year-old girl who was admitted to our hospital for a skin infection caused by a resistant germ.
Dr Rangel continued: “This germ reached her blood, from there it went to her lungs and caused pneumonia, which subsequently caused an additional infection in her heart – an Endocarditis (an infection in the inner lining of the heart). In order to eradicate or take control of the infection, she should have initially received a course of Vancomycin, but she was unable to receive it because no one had the drug.”
The scale of the crisis
Last Spring Dr Rangel witnessed the deaths of five children in one week through lack of antibiotics.
Public hospitals have even run out of basic equipment like soap and alcohol. The number of beds has fallen 40% since 2014, and diagnostic facilities are out of service. According to government sources,one in three patients admitted to public hospitals last year died.
One of the lucky ones
It is thanks to her parents that Ashley is alive today. They queued for hours to get an appointment in a private clinic, and to buy medicine. They sold everything to save their child. But as the situation worsens, countless other parents are unable to do the same for their children.
After two months in hospital, Ashley was finally given the all clear and allowed to return home at the end of September.
In 2015 the mortality rate for under one-month-olds in Venezuelan Public Hospitals shot up 100 fold to 2% from 0.02% in 2012.
Venezuela’s disastrous economic crisis has made avoidable situations like this common place yet the government has reportedly refused offers of humanitarian aid.