Population Connection member and friend Steven Bloomstein wrote the following letter to the editor of The New York Times, in response to its Feb. 20, 2021, article “Venezuelan Women Lose Access to Contraception, and Control of Their Lives.” It wasn’t picked up for publication, so we’re sharing it here!
As a U.S. citizen who has been living in Venezuela for almost 50 years and running a foundation dedicated to family planning for half of that time, I would like to thank authors Julie Turkewitz and Isayen Herrera for bringing to the world’s attention the plight of women and families in Venezuela. The state of family planning in Venezuela really is as difficult as presented in their revelatory article. And sadly, the situation can be even more dire for the many rural women that our foundation serves, who live in remote valleys far from any kind of health services at all.
Turimiquire Foundation was created in response to the death of our rural neighbor Brunilde. Low-income, illiterate, and long on public health’s family planning waiting list, she was 31 years old in 1994 when she died from post-partum hemorrhaging after giving birth to her seventh child in a small mud hut located a two-hour hike from the nearest road. She bled out while being carried down rocky trails and across mountain rivers in a blood-drenched hammock, in a desperate attempt to get her to the only hospital in time to save her life. Her newborn child died shortly thereafter.
Since 1997, we have been delivering family planning services to the rural populations in the northeastern state of Sucre, Venezuela. We are grateful for what we have been able to achieve, but so very much more needs to be done.
These are the stories that need to be told, for the developed world to understand how important basic reproductive health services are for the lives and welfare of the vast majority of human beings on this planet who are living in developing countries.
Steven has lived in Venezuela since 1973. He directs the Turimiquire Foundation and administers its family planning and rural education and development programs. He is co-founder, with Robert Albert, of the Dos Pasos farm. He wrote a custom magazine article for us in December 2018, which you can read on our website here. Population Connection President John Seager wrote a blog post about Venezuela’s reproductive health crisis, in which he referenced Turimiquire—you may read that blog post here.