In Crisis-hit Venezuela, Maternity Wards Have Become Death Traps

In crisis-hit Venezuela, maternity wards have become death traps

Caracas, Feb 3 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 3rd Feb, 2021 ) :Red roses and a burning candle frame the small white casket Wendy Dulcey is caressing at a hospital morgue in Caracas.

It contains the remains of her baby son who died on December 1, 39 days after he was born -- a cruel fate befalling far too many in the crisis-hit South American country.

With seven years of back-to-back recession and the highest inflation in the world, Venezuela's hospitals are creaking skeletons of their former selves, with a critical shortage of doctors and nursing personnel, surgical equipment and medicine.

According to the latest official figures available, infant mortality in Venezuela increased almost a third in 2016 from the previous year, to 11,466 deaths among children aged zero to one.

Maternal mortality in the country of some 30 million people soared by 65 percent in the same period -- a tragedy that began building long before the coronavirus pandemic.

Dulcey nurses her still-prominent baby bump and says she has no more tears to cry.

She recounts in horrifying detail the days leading up to the death of her son, Thiago, whose body she later spotted in a partly-open fridge among the corpses of other dead children.

The 39-year-old fell ill and was admitted to a hospital in the Venezuelan capital for an emergency C-section at only seven months.

She was shown away by two other maternity hospitals before she was admitted to a clinic she described as having dirty, poorly-lit corridors "full of excrement, blood, garbage." The lifts did not work, and there were no wheelchairs.

From the moment she arrived, "the only thing I could think about was that we weren't going to make it out of there," she told AFP.

Things soon went from bad to worse.

After little Thiago was born prematurely, Dulcey said staff took a used syringe to insert a feeding tube, which she claimed was never replaced.

Vanessa Martinez, 28, had an emergency C-section in her seventh month of pregnancy after an iron supplement prescribed to her caused a surge in blood pressure.

For her, giving birth safely in Venezuela "is a matter of luck".

And considering herself one of the lucky ones, she dreams of nothing more than a "quiet life" with her newborn daughter Samantha, she told AFP at her home in a slum west of Caracas.

According to the World Health Organization, globally about 7,000 newborns die every day, mainly in poor countries, as well as 830 women from "preventable causes due to pregnancy and childbirth".