UN delivers humanitarian aid to Venezuela as crisis deepens
Gideon Long in Bogotá
The UN has delivered 12 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Venezuela to help it combat coronavirus.
The shipment included 127,000 water purification tablets, 18 water tanks and 40,000 nutritional support packages.
“These vital supplies will help provide nutrition assistance and access to safe water to thousands of families and will be distributed to health centres and the most vulnerable communities,” said Peter Grohmann, a UN co-ordinator in Venezuela.
This is the second UN aid flight to land in Caracas since the pandemic started. Venezuela is reeling under an acute humanitarian, economic and political crisis, exacerbated by US sanctions.
Leftist President Nicolás Maduro has said the sanctions are preventing him from dealing with the outbreak, although the US points out the measures do not apply to medical and food aid.
The government has reported 1,459 cases of coronavirus and 14 deaths in a country of nearly 30m people. That is the lowest reported per capita death rate in the Western hemisphere with the exception of a few Caribbean islands.
The opposition says the government is covering up the true extent of the outbreak and New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch has dismissed the numbers as “absurd”.
When the virus struck, many observers feared the worst for Venezuela, which has been in crisis for years. One report, published late last year, found it was the least prepared country in the Americas to deal with a pandemic. Many hospitals do not even have soap or water, let alone basic protective clothing.
Many Venezuelans have been queuing for water and petrol, often ignoring calls for social distancing. Others say they cannot afford to stay at home during the lockdown as they have to work to earn money.
Mr Maduro has extended the country’s lockdown until June 12.