Poverty, food insecurity, and displacement continue to impact 90% of Venezuela's population. But the country's humanitarian crisis could also fuel disease outbreaks beyond its borders, the Telegraph reports.
Health care in Venezuela has been in shambles since its economic crisis began, nearly a decade ago, and has become increasingly dire in recent years. The majority of citizens do not have access to affordable basic health care, including vaccines that prevent the spread of common diseases like measles and diphtheria.
Now, as the country's refugee crisis intensifies, low vaccination rates could threaten the health of people in Venezuela, its neighboring countries, and around the world, experts say.
"The continued mass exodus of around 2 million persons from Venezuela since 2014, not only to Colombia, but also to Ecuador, and Brazil, represents an ongoing risk that vaccine-preventable diseases will be carried with them," researchers warn in a report by the Center for Disease Control.
Although Venezuela had not seen outbreaks of measles or diptheria for over a decade, numerous cases have been reported in recent years. Outbreaks of these potentially life-threatening diseases have already made their way to Brazil and Colombia. And there is even a risk that polio — a debilitating and potentially deadly disease — could see a resurgence.
"The ongoing diphtheria and measles epidemics in Venezuela, and spillover into neighbouring countries, evoke the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases observed in Syria and Yemen and the consequent threat to regional, and potentially global, public health," the report said.
The consequences of deteriorating health care in Venezuela are also reflected in the country's rising infant mortality rates. Infant mortality rose from 15 deaths per 1000 live births in 2008 to more than 21 deaths per 1000 live births in 2016.
Humanitarian crises do not have national borders. As social and economic turmoil persist in Venezuela, global leaders everywhere must champion human rights and pave the way for more sustainable and equitable future that ensures all people can access quality health care.