Humanitarian aid reduces shortages in Venezuela emergency rooms: NGO

CARACAS (Reuters) - Humanitarian aid has led to a small improvement in the availability of medical supplies in Venezuelan emergency rooms, although shortages continue to plague public hospitals, non-governmental organization Doctors for Health said on Wednesday.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido in February attempted to bring U.S.-backed aid into Venezuela via Colombia against the wishes of President Nicolas Maduro's government, which blocked the entrance of supplies in a violent standoff along the border.

Maduro later gave permission to the International Federation of the Red Cross and the United Nations to provide hospitals with emergency supplies that included power plants, medicine and surgical gloves.

"Despite the improvement, in our opinion, there is not much stability," said Julio Castro, of Doctors for Health, which gathers data from employees in 40 Venezuelan public hospitals.

Emergency rooms for the last six months have lacked around 50% of the supplies they need, he said.

A lack of medicine, water and power outages, and the migration of personnel due to low wages, have crippled Venezuela's health sector.

U.N. agencies this year provided 358 tonnes of medicine and supplies, Castro said, enough to provide treatment for as many as 3.5 million people.

The International Federation of the Red Cross as of August had delivered 100 tonnes of supplies, it said in a news release.

Castro said aid groups have not provided a breakdown of how much aid reached each hospital or if any was distributed to Venezuela's 300 smaller public health clinics.

A U.N. official said in response to questions that the United Nations works with a number of Venezuelan hospitals and provides aid through organizations that include the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Venezuela's information ministry did not reply to requests for comment.

Guaido, who has been recognised by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's legitimate president, says the February aid effort boosted pressure on Maduro to allow aid into the country.

Humanitarian relief groups had said that effort risked politicizing aid.

Venezuela's government until this year had refused such aid on the grounds that the country was not in humanitarian crisis.

Castro said that despite announcements by Russia and China about providing humanitarian aid, no follow-up information on aid from the two has been provided, making it impossible to evaluate its impact. 


(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Writing by Sarah Kinosian and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Dan Grebler)