Caracas, 15 de June de 2018 (OPS / OMS)- Halting the transmission of measles and diphtheria, reducing malaria outbreaks and ensuring access to priority medicines were just some of the central topics during the visit of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Carissa F. Etienne, to Venezuela from 12 to 15 June 2018. There, Etienne met with national and health authorities and civil society to discuss health related issues facing the country.

During her visit, Dr Etienne emphasized PAHO's commitment to working alongside the People's Ministry of Health (MPPS) in order to ensure access to medicines and health services for the population. She also highlighted the importance of improving primary health care, a first step towards universal health.

"Primary health care must be supported so that it is able to the vast majority of health-related needs. It is therefore vital that it has access to the necessary resources. This includes facilities, human resources, medicines, supplies and technology," she added.

Doctora Carissa F. Etienne visita centro médico

The Director also emphasized that efforts must be made to end the disease outbreaks currently being experienced by the country. "Plans to end outbreaks must be revised and put into place as soon as possible. If we work hard, together we can stop the transmission of measles and diphtheria quickly, and also reduce the incidence of malaria." She also highlighted that Venezuela's new vaccination program must be carried out simultaneously throughout the whole of the country.

The Minister of Health, Luis López, assured Dr. Etienne that the Ministry's priority is to ensure the provision of medicines, which will be obtained through the PAHO Revolving Fund and the Strategic Fund. These funds were developed as a way of enabling PAHO Member States to collaborate in the purchase of vaccinations and priority medicines and supplies for public health.     

The Ministry of Health also highlighted that efforts would be made to train new specialist doctors, more vaccination professionals and to step-up the fight against vectors through the fumigation of homes and the use of mosquito nets in order to reduce malaria outbreaks.

On 14 June, Etienne also met with the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, at the Miraflores Palace, to discuss the measles and diphtheria vaccination campaign. During the meeting, it was agreed that efforts must be increased in order to halt current outbreaks of disease in Venezuela through the National Vaccination Plan. Commitments were also made to increase the purchase of vaccinations and medicines available through PAHO's Revolving Fund and Strategic Fund.

Dr. Etienne also met with Venezuelan Minister, Jorge Arreaza, and the Vice-president of Social Development, Elias Jaua to discuss the motives behind PAHO's visit to Venezuela and to reiterate the importance of technical cooperation with the organization.

During these meetings, Dr. Etienne was joined by the representative of PAHO in Venezuela, José Moya; Director of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief at PAHO, Ciro Ugarte; and PAHO's Head of the Health Services and Access Unit, Amalia del Riego.

Standing with the Venezuelan people and civil society

On 13 June, the PAHO Director visited the Celia Sánchez Manduley Diagnostic Centre and the Dr. Jesus Yerena Lidice General Hospital. There, she delivered medicines for the primary care of 10 thousand people. She also delivered antimalarial drugs, as well as equipment and supplies for emergency care and general medicine.

On 15 June, at the PAHO office in Venezuela, Etienne met with representatives from civil society, as well as transplant patients, who highlighted the health-related issues currently being faced in the country.  

Etienne emphasized the importance of collaboration between the government, civil society and citizens in tackling the country's health care challenges. She also highlighted the work carried out by PAHO in order to improve access to medicines and health care.

"We are working with the government and other services to ensure the continued supply of medicines, diagnostic services and treatment for those with acute and chronic illness," she said. "We are also providing support at a regional level in order to ensure resources for the purchase of critical medicines."

Dr. Etienne highlighted that next week a group of experts from PAHO and UNAIDS Will arrive in Venezuela to work with MPPS and civil society in order to develop a Project that Will look at ensuring the necessary financing to tackle HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Throughout her visit, the Director of PAHO reiterated the commitment of PAHO in Venezuela to work towards universal health access and coverage for all, without leaving anyone behind.