Venezuela Strengthens National Health System, Marks Advance in Fight Against Poverty

Venezuela will see an increase in health spending this year and expand its immunization program, while statistics also highlight the country’s decreasing poverty and inequality.

Mérida, March 4th, 2010 (–  Venezuela will see an increase in health spending this year and expand its immunization program, while statistics also highlight the country’s decreasing poverty and inequality. 

In the neighborhood La Vega in Caracas on Wednesday, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez revealed government plans to amplify Venezuela’s immunization program and provide additional funding to improve hospital infrastructure.         

According to the head of state, the National Vaccination Plan will immunize 95 percent of the Venezuelan population against 14 diseases in more 2000 new immunization attention centers throughout the country, centers which will be incorporated into the current Barrio Adentro units.

“We are engaging in preventive health, protecting the Venezuelan population.  We’re going to visit up to 6 million families and vaccinate millions of children and adults,” he said.

In addition to expanding the country’s immunization program, the government is also planning additional funding for hospital improvement projects and other health programs.

“We are giving priority to operating rooms, maternity wards, laboratories, and oncology centers in Barrio Adentro III” said Health Minister Luis Reyes Reyes.

Barrio Adentro, the national health program created by an agreement with Cuba in 2003 which employs Cuban doctors and provides free medical services in Venezuela, will see a boost in its budget.  

BsF 400 million (US$93 million) will be destined to phase III of the program, the phase charged with technological and infrastructure improvements in the Venezuelan national health system.  

Chávez also indicated that 90 million Bolivars ($21 million) has been approved for the fight against dengue, malaria, and chagas disease while another BsF800 million (US$186 million) have been allocated to other hospital improvements throughout the country.  

With the approval of the new funding, some 114 projects will be set in motion. 

According to health minister Luis Reyes Reyes, the government foresees 90% of improvement projects being completed by January 2011.  

Decreasing poverty and inequality

According to the president of Venezuela’s National Statistics Institute (INE), Elías Eljuri, poverty in Venezuela declined to 23% in the second semester of 2009, while extreme poverty has fallen to 6%.

This contrasts substantially with poverty rates of 70% and extreme poverty of 40% in 1996, before the election of Venezuela’s current president, Hugo Chávez.

“It would seem that many of these [opposition] politicians and intellectuals have forgotten that when they themselves were governing, there was 100% inflation and 70% poverty,” Elujri said on the television program “Between Journalists” broadcast by the private media channel, Televen.

At the end of 2009, inflation in Venezuela was registered at 25%.

Elujri also noted that Venezuela is the most equal country in Latin America, according to the internationally recognized inequality measurement, the GINI coefficient.

The president of INE has defended the validity of the institute’s statistics, stating that they have the backing of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the World Bank.