Reproductive Health Nightmare for Venezuelan Women

A shocking front page story in the February 21, 2021 edition of The New York Times, “Venezuelan Women Lose Access to Contraception, and Control of Their Lives” documents the devastating situation facing women in Venezuela. According to that report, “Millions of women are no longer able to find or afford birth control, pushing many into unplanned pregnancies at a time when they can barely feed the children they already have.”

Several years ago Population Connection’s magazine did a cover story on the horrific plight of Venezuelan women who are desperately seeking reproductive health services. Since then, matters have only gotten unimaginably worse.

As bad as things have become in Venezuela, its president, Nicolás Maduro, seems hell-bent on wreaking more havoc. Last year, during a televised event, he proclaimed that, “Every woman is to have six children! Every one! For the good of the country!” And this in a nation where infant mortality is soaring, and hunger is rampant.

The British medical journal the Lancet recently illustrated how the Trump administration made matters worse in Venezuela: “The US economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela, and military posturing meant to support the right-wing leader Juan Guaidó, have caused food and medication shortages and as many as 40,000 deaths.”

Against the backdrop of shortfalls of contraceptives and soaring maternal mortality, Covid is now adding yet another layer to the misery of both those who remain in Venezuela and those who have fled their national nightmare.

Among those still in Venezuela, there are reports of rising rates of child marriage and teen pregnancy along with a shocking report that 73% of children don’t have enough to eat.

Watching all of this unfold in Venezuela provides a good reminder that fixating on successful reductions in family size mustn’t obscure present crises. According to UN data, between 1970 and 2020, average family size in Venezuela plummeted from 5.4 children per women to 2.2 children per woman—an impressive reduction. But that progress shouldn’t cause us to shift our attention away from the horrible outcomes unfolding every day in that nation for women and for their families.

When catastrophes of this magnitude take place, it can be hard to know where to start or what to do. Population Connection is proud to support the Turimiquire Foundation—the first and only non-profit of its kind in northeastern Venezuela. Turimiquire, whose paid staff are all Venezuelans, assists families seeking to manage their fertility. They have provided more than 60,000 low-income women with birth control methods and held more than 3,200 workshops in sexual and reproductive health.

If you’re interesting in directly helping Venezuelan women in desperate need of reproductive health services, the good folks at Turimiquire would welcome your support.


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