Condoms Cost $169 In Venezuela As Sexual Health Crisis Reaches Breaking Point

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Sexual health services shouldnt be viewed as a luxury, or as something only accessible to those with enough cash to spare after paying their monthly bills.

For many people, wherever they are in the world, sex is an important and rewarding human need; a means of expressing their feelings for another person, or an integral part of their relationship.

For sex to be truly enjoyable, it needs to be a safe, comfortable experience with low risk of unwanted consequences. Suitable contraception should never be so far out of the normal price range so as to be unattainable for ordinary men and women.

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In order for any society to truly flourish, citizens need to have full control and autonomy over their own bodies.

This of course encompasses the vastly important area of sexual health, a factor which ultimately determines so many of the choices we make as human beings.

Speaking as a woman, I know how lucky I have been to have had access to a variety of contraceptive methods; allowing me to pursue education, training and an enjoyable career before making the life changing decision to have children. Many women across the world are not so fortunate.

According to statistics given by the Global Library Of Womens Medicine (GLOWM), 600,000 women die every year from pregnancy-related causes, with 75,000 dying following unsafe abortions. At least 200,000 of these maternal deaths can be attributable to the failure or unavailability of contraceptive services.

Venezuela, Colombia, Sexual Health, ContraceptionSave the Children

Adequate family planning services bring numerous health and socioeconomic benefits for both women and children, allowing mothers to participate fully in society while reducing the risk of infant mortality.

In the country of Venezuela, citizens are seeing first-hand the dismaying reality of life without accessible contraception; an issue which starkly illustrates the catastrophic collapse of the Venezuelan healthcare system.

For Venezuelans, safe sex is indeed a luxury few can afford, leading to escalating numbers of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), unwanted pregnancies, teenage pregnancies and serious pregnancy-related health risks.

There are currently far more people trying to buy goods in Venezuelan stores than there are goods on the shelves, with the price of a variety of products doubling, on average, every 26 days as reported by the BBC.

This economic crisis has led to shortages in a variety of products people in more fortunate circumstances would never think of as being precious, including medicine, food and contraception.

Venezuela, Colombia, Sexual Health, ContraceptionSave the Children

Oral contraceptives, IUDs and condoms were once freely available at public hospitals or through government programs. However, these handouts have been largely suspended due to huge government cuts.

Estimates given by The Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation – as reported in the British Medical Journal – suggest the stock of contraceptives in Venezuela has plummeted by 90 per cent from 2015 to 2018. This shortage has caused prices to skyrocket.

In 2016, the price for a three-pack condoms on the black market skyrocketed to 1687.88 Venezuelan bolívar ($169). This staggering figure is due to hyperinflation, with the countrys economy having shrunk by one third between the years 2013 and 2018.

Just one months supply of contraceptive pills will use up a quarter of a minimum wage workers monthly salary, while a single condom can require half their monthly wage. Scarcity means black market prices can be even steeper.

With contraception being way out of the average persons budget, many are forced to use unreliable techniques such as the withdrawal pull out method or the rhythm method. Abortions are illegal unless a womans life is at risk, and so many are ending their unwanted pregnancies by themselves.

Venezuela, Colombia, Sexual Health, ContraceptionSave the Children

As reported by the BBC, many women have even felt desperate enough to opt for permanent sterilisation; with waiting lists of up to 500 women for so-called sterilisation days.

Since 2014, over four million people have fled Venezuela for neighbouring countries, with the most predominant country being Colombia. By the end of 2019, this number is expected to hit five million.

One of the biggest drivers of migration from Venezuela to Colombia is the access to healthcare Venezuelans are unable to receive in their own home country.

Unfortunately, the overwhelmed Colombian healthcare system is struggling with the influx of migrants, with the government unable to provide enough support. NGOs are therefore helping to plug some of the gaps.

Reproductive care is one such area which represents a significant gap, placing a huge burden on an already overburdened Colombian healthcare system. Many pregnant women are among those fleeing, hoping to have their babies delivered outside of Venezuelas broken healthcare system.

Venezuela, Colombia, Sexual Health, ContraceptionSave the Children

In a bid to address this pressing issue, Save The Children have established a sexual reproductive health unit in Maicao, located near one of the two main border crossings into Colombia.

The unit – which is part of Save The Childrens Emergency Health Unit – provides antenatal and postnatal care, as well as vital counselling services.

Since the clinic opened on April 3, 2019, staff at Save the Childrens Emergency Health Unit (EHU) have cared for at least 459 pregnant women, including at least 122 pregnant girls. The youngest girl treated was just 14 years old.

Staff at the unit have reported worryingly high numbers of STIs amongst patients, including cases of syphilis and HIV. However, there is little the unit can do to treat those with HIV other than give them the test.

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UNILAD spoke with Jenn Gardella from Save the Children, who is currently serving as the humanitarian communications manager for the emergency response to the Venezuela migration crisis in Colombia.

Jenn told UNILAD:

The political, economic turmoil thats been going on in Venezuela for a number of years, has led to this emergency both inside the country.

Now, these last few years especially, its turned into a regional crisis, with the increased migration and outflows because of the levels of desperation inside Venezuela for the most basic things.

As reported by Global News, maternal death rates in Venezuela soared by over 65 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

Its therefore little wonder such large influxes of mothers – many of whom are barely more than children themselves – choose to go to such desperate measures.

Over one quarter of the the pregnant women who have made the crossing to Colombia are teenage girls, a demographic prone to serious complications such as anaemia, high blood pressure and premature labour. The perils when making the crossing itself can also be grave.

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Girls as young as 14 years old have made the dangerous journey from Venezuela to Colombia, entering trough through informal border crossings known as Trochas where they are at the mercy of criminal gangs and armed groups.

Jenn told UNILAD:

I think there seven border point, seven points where there are migration people and they have to show some kind of document even when theres a passport or any sort of identification card.

But there are three hundred or more – probably more – informal border points which are called […] that are just completely unregulated, and under the control of either armed groups – like the armed groups that are present in Colombia or Venezuela – and criminal gangs.

They will receive more vulnerable people, such as pregnant women, and there is lots of exposure to, you know, the risks of physical harm, sexual abuse, exploitation, human trafficking. Of robbery and theft.

Like pretty much any informal border crossing in anywhere in the world, right, there is a price to pay. And if you dont pay the price then you either dont cross or something happens to you.

So it can be a very harrowing journey through for some of these people. But even when they cross, even when theyre in Colombia, that doesnt mean theyre not exposed to these risks.

Venezuela, Colombia, Sexual Health, ContraceptionSave the Children

Once they make it through the crossings, expectant mothers can expect further perils. Without friends or family to turn to, they will often be forced to sleep out on the streets. Without required documentation, they will be unable to access healthcare at all.

In Colombia, childbirth is classed as an emergency, meaning they will be afforded medical treatment during the birth. However, this treatment does not encompass pre-natal or post-natal care, and such women wont be checked on afterwards.

The horror many of these patients will have faced during their journey means the sexual health unit places an emphasis on mental health; providRead More – Source