Caracas, 13 June 2018 (PAHO/WHO) - The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, has arrived in Venezuela to meet with health authorities to discuss the country's plans to respond to the recent outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and malaria, as well as to evaluate the current state of the country's health system and access to medicines.

During her visit, Dr. Etienne will also meet with representatives from other United Nations agencies, as well as with civil society organizations in order to strengthen ties and ensure the provision and promotion of health care in Venezuela.

Since the first case of diphtheria was confirmed in 2016 and measles in 2017, PAHO has continued its efforts to strengthen technical cooperation, supporting the Peoples' Ministry of Health (MPPS) through the provision of vaccines; the training of vaccination professionals; the analysis of new cases; laboratory diagnosis and the analysis of progress in vaccination coverage.

Between 2017 and 2018, thanks to PAHO's Revolving Fund, around 7 million doses of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and MR (measles and rubella) vaccines were provided, as well as more than 9 million DPT and DT vaccines, that protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough. PAHO has also provided resources for the purchase of syringes and other vaccine-related items.

As well as this, PAHO has mobilized over a dozen vaccination experts from the Americas who, alongside state health authorities, have participated in vaccination programs, targeting vulnerable populations and those living in areas that are hard to access.

PAHO's office in Venezuela has also aided in the purchase of antimalarial drugs and rapid testing kits. The organization has trained health workers and has also provided communication material to encourage patients to follow their prescribed treatment regime. In 2017, through the Rotating Fund, PAHO purchased more than 130 thousand antimalaria drugs and 300 thousand rapid testing kits. In 2018 so far, the organization has purchased around 140 thousand antimalaria drugs and 30 thousand rapid testing kits.

The Organization has also extended its support in the provision of high-priority medicines such as immunosuppressants, antitubercular drugs, antiretrovirals, nutritional supplements, medicines required for maternal care and medicines to treat other common, chronic diseases.