Por lo general escribo en español, pero este texto está dirigido a todos aquellos que viven fuera de nuestras fronteras y que no entienden nuestro idioma.
This is for those of you who do not live in Venezuela, but need to know what’s happening in our country.
I usually write in Spanish since I live in Venezuela, but this time I’m writing in English in an effort to draw the attention of international organizations and media to the life and death situation faced by Venezuelans living with Type 1 diabetes.
My daughter was diagnosed when she was eight years old, her life depends on getting her daily doses of insulin. For many years I never had to worry about getting her insulin and diabetes supplies since all I had to do was to go to the pharmacy and purchase whatever I needed. Roughly about three years ago, insulin and diabetes supplies needed to control type 1 diabetes began to become scarce. At that moment we started a campaign on social media with the hashtag #LaDiabetesNoEspera (Diabetes does not wait) #SinInsumosNosMorimos (Without supplies we will die).
Fast forward three years and the situation instead of getting better it has worsened. Last week I visited five pharmacies and in all the answer was the same: There is no insulin, of any type, nor glucose testing strips. This situation is repeated all over the country, big or small towns; public or private health facilities. Anyone who lives with type 1 diabetes or has a relative or friend living with this chronic condition, knows how serious this can be, and also knows what may happen if someone needing insulin does not get their daily doses of insulin. Diabetic Ketoacidosis is the result of lack of insulin, and many, many people, young or not, are presenting complications due to using less insulin than needed to make it last or simply using no insulin at all.
The same happens with glucose testing strips. There are none in the local market. I keep close communication with other parents of type 1 children, and the common denominator in our conversations is that there are no testing strips nor insulin. Again, those of us who have a child, relative or friend with type 1 diabetes know the importance of testing at least 5 times a day. How can anyone dose accurately without a proper glucose value? Insulin is a lifesaving hormone, but too little or too much can lead to serious consequences: hyperglycemia, DKA, hypoglycemia and death.
A few months ago, while talking to the father of a six-year-old type 1 girl, he told me that they were not injecting the fast acting insulin because they had no glucose testing strips and they were afraid of her getting a hypoglycemia. Does anyone understand how serious this is? This child could die if she does not receive her insulin, but she can also die if her parents give too much or too little insulin.
It seems that Venezuelan authorities are not interested in solving this problem; if there was any interest whatsoever, I would not be writing this piece at this moment.
Our hands are tied. The government refusal to declare a Humanitarian Crises, hinders the efforts of any international organization wanting and willing to help. Medicines are not allowed in the country via courier nor any other means of delivery. Those persons with economic means are purchasing glucose testing strips via Amazon, Ebay or Diabetes Supplies websites, but very few can afford to do this. Insulin must be kept refrigerated and the few donations we have been able to receive is because good natured persons travelling to our country that brings them as part of their baggage, but how many people can those donation help? People are beginning to deteriorate and show early complications due to lack of good control.
“There are between 8 and 10 new type 1 diabetes diagnosis each month, so we are talking about 1,000 to 1,200 new cases every year, patients who, in a good percentage of the cases will have trouble getting the basic minimum to control their condition and save their lives”[i]
“We will see more people dying. There are no insulins, nor oral medications, nor glucose testing strips. When there is no access to the proper treatment, glucose rises, the person becomes dehydrated and the organism loses its balance. Then they are taken to an Emergency Room where there are no proper saline solutions o they have no insulin,” warns Imperia Brajkovich, president of the Venezuelan Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism.
The type 1 diabetes population in Venezuela will begin to die if there isn’t a solution to this problem.
This is a cry for help. A cry for life.
Feel free to share this post using the hashtag #VenezuelaSinInsulina
[i] Extracted from the Press release by Martha Palma Troconis. November 2016.