First Red Cross aid delivery arrives in Venezuela

Last Modified Wednesday, 17 April 2019 (11:46 IST)
Two dozen tons of medical supplies arrived in Caracas, after Nicolas Maduro granted the permission to deliver the aid. A recent report found the country's health system to be in "utter collapse."
The Red Cross confirmed on Tuesday that a humanitarian shipment had arrived in Venezuela. The announcement marks the first shipment of aid to successfully make it into the crisis-ridden nation.
 
"This is a great step forward to support vulnerable people in the country!" Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a tweet.
 
Politicized aid
 
Last week, acting president Nicolas Maduro reached an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to allow in the aid into the country, after months opposing such a move, on the basis that it represented intervention efforts against his government.
 
Humanitarian aid has been the latest front in the power struggle between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been recognized by more than 50 countries — including the US and Germany—, as Venezuela's interim president.
 
The opposition and the government have blamed each other for politicizing the nation's humanitarian crisis.
 
Guaido was unsuccessful when he attempted to bring over humanitarian aid stockpiled on the Colombian border earlier this year, as the military backed Maduro's call to block the aid.
 
On Tuesday, the 35-year-old opposition leader celebrated the arrival of the Red Cross shipments and still called for an end to Maduro's rule, which he sees as the root of the humanitarian crisis.
 
"Now we must guarantee that the aid is delivered to those who need it the most and is not used as blackmail," Guaido wrote on Twitter, alluding to the possibility that Maduro's government would manipulate the aid shipments to suppress dissent.
 
'Utter collapse' of health system
 
The Red Cross shipment included 24 tons of medical supplies, as well as 14 power units to be distributed amongst eight hospitals and 30 outpatient clinics, Venezuela's Health Minister Carlos Alvarado said.
 
A recent report by and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found Venezuela's health system to be in "utter collapse."
 
The report noted heightened levels of maternal and infant mortality, the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases and high levels of child malnutrition.
 
"The combination of medicine shortages and food shortages, together with the spread of diseases across Venezuela's borders, amounts to a complex humanitarian emergency," the report states.
 
Public hospitals have struggled to treat patients due to basic shortages, such as antibiotics, bandages and respiratory equipment.
 
Maduro has so far repeatedly denied that is suffering from a humanitarian crisis and has blamed the US for his country's economic woes. But he has been under pressure to accept the aid, after massive blackouts hit last month, paralyzing the nation and further affecting Venezuelans' access to food and water.
 
The UN estimates that 3.7 million Venezuelans are malnourished and 22 percent of children younger than age five suffer from chronic malnourishment.jcg/se (AP, AFP)