A hospital in Venezuela has said 14 children have died this week following an outbreak of amoebiasis, a form of dysentery transmitted by contaminated food or water.
Dozens of other children infected by the disease cannot receive adequate treatment due to a lack of medical supplies, employees at the Luis Razetti hospital in the coastal city of Barcelona told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
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“Three years ago, we stopped receiving gauze and alcohol. There are not enough syringes or serums to hydrate the children,” hospital worker Jose Planes said.
The staff at the hospital, located 300km east of Caracas, granted Al Jazeera access to the wards because they said they wanted the world to see that they are unequipped to save children’s lives.
“My daughter has diarrhoea, she almost had a heart attack. We have nothing. We arrived here and we have nothing,” Lady Chacon, mother of a sick child, told Al Jazeera.
“I want this government out now, it has destroyed us.”
Marleea Marino lost her two-month-old baby this week as a result of the outbreak, but his body remains in the hospital because she has not been able to get the money needed to buy a coffin.
“There is nothing here, they have no medicine, they don’t have food,” she said. “And now my son is dead.”
‘We are not beggars’
Although hospital workers claim there is a shortage of supplies, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has denied there is a humanitarian crisis in the country.
But the president recently announced plans to reform the country’s healthcare system.
“Venezuela is going to produce all the medicine it needs for its healthcare system and social security,” Maduro said. “We can reach everyone, as it should be in socialism.”
On Thursday, Maduro refused to let humanitarian aid from the United States enter Venezuela via the Colombian border town of Cucuta, saying “we are not beggars” and claiming the aid was a ploy to humiliate the country.
Venezuela’s opposition leaders, including self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, have said humanitarian aid is urgently needed to save lives.
Opposition members converged in Cucuta to help plan and execute the delivery of the aid, in a calculated move seen as a test of the Venezuelan military’s loyalty to Maduro.
Meanwhile, the flow of Venezuelans entering neighbouring Colombia via the main border crossing to buy basic supplies continued as normal on Thursday.
More than 50,000 people cross into Cucuta each day, with up to 5,000 staying in Colombia, according to Colombian migration officials.
Many cross the border to buy food and medicine that are unavailable in Venezuela and then return, while others use it as their first port of call as they migrate elsewhere in Colombia or to countries such as Ecuador and Peru.
The United Nations has appealed for a cash injection of $738m this year to help Venezuela’s neighbours cope with the ongoing influx.
According to the UN, the appeal has only received $5m so far.