UN Security Council officials argue over 'politicized' aid to troubled country as peace-building chief warns of 'grim realities' The Guardian's Peter Beaumont, Wed 27 Feb 2019
Briefing the UN Security Council, the UN's political and peace building chief, Rosemary DiCarlo (Obama's UN Permanent Representative, later elevated by the Secretary General to the position of Under-Secretary General for Peace Keeping) described the almost complete collapse of Venezuela's health system, warning that 40% of medical staff had departed Venezuela and that hospital medical supplies had dropped to 20% of minimal level. She stated the "protracted crisis" in the country had led in recent weeks to an "alarming escalation of tensions." DiCarlo warned of the "grim reality" facing a country where citizens are dying of preventable causes and 3.4 million people have fled the worsening conditions. DiCarlo stated the UN was coordinating efforts to deliver assistance as close as possible to Venezuelans in need, and that aid delivery should be free "from political objectives and delivered on the basis of need." DiCarlo stated that Russian and Chinese supplies have entered the country, in coordination with the Venezuelan government, but that US and other nations' contributions have been piled up at the Colombian and Brazilian borders.
The politicization of aid efforts has caused widespread alarm in the international aid community. Many have watched with dismay as supporters of both sides have sought to funnel aid to the advantage of one or other of the rival parties, some trying to back the government of Maduro, others the opposition led by Juan Guaidó, the self-declared interim president, who is championed by the US.
DiCarlo's presentation to the Security Council followed violent clashes at the weekend that focused on failed efforts to deliver aid to the Venezuelan opposition. Quoting Colombian and UN human rights officials, DiCarlo blamed the involvement of pro-government armed elements in the violent attacks on protestors at Venezuela's borders that left four dead and 285 injured.
[DiCarlo graduated from Brown University with a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in comparative literature. She speaks French and Russian. Before joining the Foreign Service, DiCarlo was a member of the Secretariat of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. DiCarlo became a career member of the Foreign Service and has held overseas assignments in U.S. Embassies in Moscow and Oslo.
As Director for Democratic Initiatives for the New Independent States, she oversaw an initiative to promote democratization in the former Soviet republics. She also held the position of U.S. Coordinator for the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe at the Department of State. Following appointment by President Barack Obama in 2010, DiCarlo served as Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from 2011 until 2014. In that capacity, she represented the United States at the Security Council, General Assembly and other United Nations bodies. In July 2013, she served as President of the UN Security Council.
Following her career in government, DiCarlo served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit National Committee on American Foreign Policy. She took up this role in August 2015. She was a senior fellow and lecturer at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, where she taught "Multilateral Institutions in the 21st Century," a class offered to Yale graduate students. On March 28, 2018 DiCarlo was named Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs of the United Nations by Secretary-General António Guterres, the first woman to hold that post.]
More from the Guardian:
Medical view: Infant mortality in Venezuela has doubled during crisis, UN says; Venezuela crisis threatens disease epidemic across continent; Collapse of Venezuela's healthcare system could fuel spread of malaria and other diseases across region
Experts have warned of an epidemic of diseases such as malaria and dengue on an unprecedented scale in Latin America following the collapse of the healthcare system in Venezuela. Continent-wide public health gains of the last 18 years could be undone if Venezuela does not accept help to control the spreading outbreaks of malaria, Zika, dengue and other illnesses that are afflicting its people, experts have warned in a report published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Venezuela was once a regional leader in malaria control, but as healthcare has collapsed there has been a mass departure of trained medics, the report says, creating a public emergency "of hemispheric concern". "These diseases have already extended into neighboring Brazil and Colombia, and with increasing air travel and human migration, most of the Latin American and Caribbean region (as well as some US cities hosting the Venezuelan diaspora, including Miami and Houston) is at heightened risk for disease re-emergence," says the paper.
Dr. Martin Llewellyn, based at the University of Glasgow, has called for global action.
"The re-emergence of diseases such as malaria in Venezuela has set in place an epidemic of unprecedented proportions, not only in the country but across the whole region," he said. "Based on the data we have collected we would urge national, regional and global authorities to take immediate action to address these worsening epidemics and prevent their expansion beyond Venezuelan borders." He said that the figures were probably an underestimate because the Venezuelan government had shut down the institution responsible for collecting data for the World Health Organization. "Venezuelan clinicians involved in this study have also been threatened with jail, while laboratories have been robbed by militias, hard drives removed from computers, microscopes and other medical equipment smashed," he said.
Malaria cases, in a country certified to have eradicated the disease in 1961, rose by 359% between 2010-15, from 29,736 to 136,402. They surged 71% from 2016-17, to 411,586, because of a decline in mosquito control and a shortage of antimalarial drugs. The epidemic has been supercharged by the rise of illegal mining in the jungle near the southern border with Brazil, where reservoirs of the disease survived despite its official elimination nationwide. Venezuelans had flocked to the area in recent years to dig and pan for gold in wildcat mines, as the economy collapsed and hyperinflation eroded salaries for professionals and workers. Stagnant water in pits and unsanitary camps provided a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, and malaria was soon endemic at many of the mines. Some miners and their families have endured dozens of bouts of the disease.
One woman working near the town of Tumeremo said her four-year-old had already had 13 bouts of malaria. After the last one, doctors warned her: "You have to choose - your daughter or the mine." She moved to a different pit, but the family cannot afford to leave the area. The transitory nature of mining work means the area's problems have gradually affected vast swathes of the country, as infected workers took the disease home with their gold, reintroducing malaria to areas where it had been eradicated.
"I've never been to the mines," said David Guevara, a 39-year-old builder queuing for malaria treatment in the industrial port of Ciudad Guyana, nearly 125 miles (200km) from the nearest mining camps. It is his second episode of the disease. "There are no controls [on malaria] now," he said. "And it's the children who are paying for this."
There was rarely any malaria in the city before 2015, but now the government clinic where he is seeking medical help is always busy. "It's an epidemic here now. It's a lie that you have to go to the mines to get it," said Marina Gutierrez, a 25-year-old who has had eight bouts of malaria over the last year and was at the clinic to seek help for her daughter. "She had only just finished treatment two weeks ago. She got rid of it and then it came back."