Mérida, 30th September 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has announced investments of US $805 million to fight the dengue and chikungunya diseases, combat medical shortages, and improve the country’s healthcare sector.
According to government statistics, 12,081 cases of dengue and 634 of chikungunya have been detected in Venezuela this year. The latter is a new disease in the South American country which has been spreading throughout the Caribbean. Common symptoms include fever and joint pain, and it is regarded as a serious health risk to the population.
Last week the government launched an intensified national strategy against the mosquito borne diseases, including fumigations and elimination of breeding grounds. As a further $66 million was announced for the program during a televised speech on Sunday, President Maduro pledged to “win the battle for the health of the homeland”.
A major part of the fresh health sector investments, $600 million, will go to the purchase of medical equipment and materials for the public and private sectors. The move comes as pharmacy groups and some medical sources, particularly in the private sector, continue to warn of shortages of medicines and medical materials.
According to Venezuelan Central Bank statistics, shortages were experienced in the supply of up to 50% of medicines in March this year. Private sector groups and industry bodies have blamed state currency exchange controls for the situation, claiming that delays in the approval of foreign currency to pay for imports have caused the problem.
Last month the National Assembly, which is run by a pro-government majority, launched an investigation into medical shortages under the premise that alleged private sector fraud and contraband activities were responsible for the situation.
The government has previously stated that up to 40% of basic goods, including medicines, are smuggled into neighbouring Colombia to avoid Venezuelan price controls and make a higher profit.
Maduro referred to the issue during his speech on Sunday, arguing, “On the one hand we’re combating contraband, and on the other we’re investing to recover the balance in the supply of medicines and medical supplies from the contraband mafias”.
Another $63 million was also announced to improve the Barrio Adentro system of free healthcare clinics, which was first created in 2003.