I had tentative plans to travel to Venezuela in 2011 to visit the Turimiquire Foundation, co-founded and presided over by one of Population Connection’s dedicated members, Steven Bloomstein. Turimiquire offers family planning, education, sustainable development opportunities, and humanitarian aid to the marginalized rural populations of northeastern Venezuela.
As Venezuela plunged into an economic crisis and the sociopolitical situation in the country grew increasingly unstable, visiting began to feel imprudent and ill-advised, and my trip was put on hold.
With the situation only getting worse, it seems a visit will not be in my near future, so I asked Steven Bloomstein himself to write a feature article about the foundation’s work and the people it serves. Steven has lived in Venezuela since 1973, in the small coastal town of Cumaná, located about 200 miles east of the capital, Caracas. It’s the regional base from which his organization does outreach to three rural municipalities in Sucre, the state where Cumaná is located.
In our messages back and forth about this issue of the magazine, Steven wrote, “What was originally conceived as a family planning and education NGO has become a de facto frontline responder to an authentic regional crisis. The demand for assistance is enormous and growing, and the people we serve have literally nowhere else to go. There is no longer a middle class to speak of. The consequences in reproductive health have been tragic. Unintended pregnancy, unsafe (illegal) abortion, infanticide, and maternal and infant morbidity and mortality are all on the rise here, one disturbing story after another. Years of progress are being rescinded.”
The situation in Venezuela is desperate, but Steven and his colleagues aren’t wavering in their determination to make life better for their neighbors. We are inspired by him and his foundation’s work, and are committed to being as steadfast in our advocacy in the United States, in the face of political opposition, as he has been in providing health care to the most vulnerable people in the region where he has lived his entire adult life.
This issue of Population Connection magazine includes two additional feature articles from Venezuela: one about women resorting to permanent sterilization and illegal abortion in the absence of reversible contraceptive options, and another about pregnant women crossing the border into Colombia to seek antenatal health care, which they can’t get in Venezuela. We don’t often do an entire issue of the magazine on one single country, but I believe that you’ll see the value of a focused look once you’ve read these three articles.