The Venezuelan people have enough to contend with — desperate hunger, massive inflation, a dictator who refuses to leave power — without the spread of long-eradicated disease, but this weekend, the Pan-American Health Organization revealed that a Venezuelan child has been diagnosed with one of the only recorded cases of polio in decades.
The child, who lives in the “extremely impoverished” state of Delta Amacuro, Venezuela, was not vaccinated against the deadly disease and has likely received no medical care or treatment in his entire life.
The last case of polio in Venezuela was recorded in 1989.
Health officials were especially angry about the case because, it seems, Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government waited more than a month to let authorities know they’d discovered a case of polio — more than enough time for the disease to spread among impoverished children, and more than enough time for travelers and refugees who came in contact with the disease to spread it beyond Venezuela’s borders.
Maduro’s government will not approve money for vaccines or basic medical care through their public health system, so only around 67% of Venezuelan children have been vaccinated against polio. Additionally, 90% of “necessary medications and vaccines” have disappeared from pharmacy shelves, the Telegraph reports.
“The government is not approving the money for the vaccines,” said Manuela Bolivar, one of Venezuela’s opposition leaders. “This situation is unfortunate but we saw it coming, because we’ve been denouncing for years that there are not enough vaccines.”
And polio isn’t even the only long-eradicated disease to surface in the socialist country: Venezuela has reported more than 1500 cases of the measles, several hundred cases of tuberculosis, and instances of diphtheria, yellow fever, typhoid, and malaria. The country accounts for the vast majority — 85% — of all reported measles cases in South America.
Polio is an extremely rare and deadly disease spread, typically, through water contaminated with fecal matter. One in one hundred who suffer from it will have permanent paralysis and there is no cure. In most of the developed world, polio hasn’t been seen in decades, and the World Health Organization reports that there have been only ten cases globally in the last several years, most in very rural, very poor areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.