Dear President Schultz,
The undersigned, seventy two non-governmental organizations from Venezuela, respectfully address your distinguished office deeply concerned by the seriousness of the humanitarian situation currently taking place in the country in the areas of health and food, as recognized by various institutions of the Organization of American States and the United Nations involved in Human Rights, the latter also recently issued a recommendation for necessary and urgent measures by various countries in the Second Cycle of the Periodic Universal Examination of Venezuela that took place on November 1, 2016.
The Venezuelan population is confronting extreme deprivations given the absence of the rule of law, the breakdown of the democratic system and an extreme reversal in Human Rights standards. At the national level, this has resulted in the exhaustion of institutional capabilities to guarantee the continuation of the minimum, adequate and safe availability of medical treatments, supplies and services across the whole country.
To the build-up of the current state of affairs in Venezuela, contributed, on the one hand, drastic cuts in public resources dedicated to support a high level of imports in the healthcare sector commonly covering 90% of the supply, on the other hand, the structural deficiencies that have accumulated during more than a decade within the legal, institutional and financial framework of the public health system, destroying a large portion of the existing infrastructure, of which the majority of the population depends on.
The precariousness of the health infrastructure has resulted in a high average rate of maternal deaths at 70 deaths for each 100,000 live birth which increased to 130.7 deaths between 2014 and June 2016 and the increment in the rate of infant mortality from 14.8 to 18.6 during the sameperiod; of which 80% are neonatal deaths due to lack of care, insalubrity and overcrowding in health centers.
Likewise, the lives of some 4 million individuals are in imminent danger; persons of all ages suffering diverse chronic conditions due to prolonged periods of time without treatment and medical care, resulting in deaths or irreversible physical or mental damages. The number of persons affected by chronic diseases has increased as well as the expansion of HIV, malaria, simultaneously with outbreaks of dengue fever, chikungunya, and zika.
At the same time, the effects of a state-centered economy in the stoppage of agricultural and cattle production and the widespread shortage of food, as well as the accelerated poverty levels due to inflation have generated a high degree of malnutrition with severe repercussions on the health of vulnerable members of the society such as children, adolescents, senior citizens and persons with special health conditions, indigenous people, and inmates as well as persons living in remote areas where services are not available to address their needs.
In June 2015, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) of the United Nations issued observations in its 3rd Periodic Examination of Venezuela regarding the ".critical situation faced by the Health System of the State's party, due to the extreme shortage and irregular delivery of medical supplies, medicines, surgical material and medical equipment, the deterioration of some of the hospitals and lack of medical personnel."
Between the years 2014 and 2016, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health of the United Nations directed communications to the Venezuelan State referring to the widespread shortage of medicines and medical supplies as well as the growing deterioration of the public health system, highlighting the urgent need to address the humanitarian crisis in the area of healthcare declared by the Venezuelan National Assembly in January 2016.
In July 2016, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights exhorted the Venezuelan State to adopt urgent measures in its public policies given the acute shortage of medicines and to guarantee the right to health to the population considering the special conditions of individuals, groups and communities in vulnerable situations by international norms.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Hon. Ban Ki-moon, in an interview with international media in August 2016 expressed his concern over a "humanitarian crisis" in Venezuela, due to the fact that basic needs of food, water, health and clothing are not covered by the Venezuelan State. At the opening of the sessions of the Council of Human Rights in September the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations stated about Venezuela "a dramatic decrease in the enjoyment of economic and social rights with an increase of generalized hunger and severe deterioration of health services..".
Despite these exhortations and recommendations, the Venezuelan Government has failed in its obligations to duly inform on the very serious situation in healthcare and has refused to cooperate with international mechanisms that have offered visits and humanitarian assistance to the country, alleging that this goes against national sovereignty and the principle of self-determination of peoples, using as justification decisions from the Judicial branch whose organisms have lost their independence.
These threats to the lives, the health and quality of life of the Venezuelan population and the absence of guarantees for the adequate satisfaction of the pertinent rights on the part of the State require efforts in the international arena in order to stand up for the right of the Venezuelan population to receive immediate and urgent support from mechanisms of humanitarian assistance and international cooperation in the exercise of their mandates to protect the economic, social, political or humanitarian Human Rights under all circumstances in accordance with International Law of Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Rights.
Observation N° 3 with respect to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ratified by Venezuela, indicates that it corresponds to each state to take the necessary measures to the maximum of its available resources", to guarantee the carrying out and the full effectiveness of the rights recognized by the Covenant, demonstrating that it has used all the resources, both internal as well as those at its disposal by the international community through the cooperation and assistance in an effort to meet as a priority the essential levels of these rights.
The International Court of Justice, in a Judgment of July 27, 1986 regarding Nicaragua, recognized that: "There is no doubt that the supply of strictly humanitarian assistance to persons or forces of other countries, independent of its political affiliations or objectives cannot be considered an illicit intervention, or as any other form contrary to international law." Human Rights have universal jurisdiction and it is a duty of countries to facilitate the direct and concrete contribution in humanitarian aid so that it may reach to those persons in peremptory situation where there is a risk of loss of human lives due to the denial or disallowance of rights.
It is due to the foregoing that we request from your Office a proclamation and statement with respect to this situation and support in international organizations that allow the promotion before other nations of the importance of the international assistance and cooperation for the Venezuelan population in the area of health and food. We firmly believe that the joint effort of various countries is necessary and legitimate in the protection of the people in order to avoid further casualties in terms of suffering and loss of life.
Thanking you for your support and interest, the undersigned.