Pestilence Update

‘It’s a miracle I’m alive’: Why so many pregnant women are dying in Venezuela

Blog note. Jesus indicated that ‘fearful sights’ (various natural disasters) would occur leading up to the time known as the Tribulation and Great Tribulation (a combined seven year period of great destruction on earth). Although these types of things have occurred in the past for centuries and thousands of years, they could be identified as the ‘season of the times’ due to the ferociousness of these events. They would be occurring in greater intensity, severity, frequency, size, duration, scope … just like the pains that a woman experiences in labor the farther along she is in the labor process. We are in the ‘season of the times’ that comes just before the seven (7) year Tribulation/Great Tribulation period


… And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. (Luke 21:11).


… And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; (Luke 21:25)


… Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken; (Luke 21:26)


… This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2 Timothy 3:1)


Jesus is giving a series of prophecies about what to look for as the age of grace comes to a close. These verses are several of many such prophecies from throughout the Bible. 2017 was the worst year in recorded history for the intensity, frequency, severity, duration and occurrence of a large number of severe natural disasters worldwide. Earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, torrential flooding, unprecedented wildfires in unusual places, devastating droughts, excessive/scorching heat setting records everywhere, record snowfalls in Europe and Russia. Snow in the Arabia. This list can go on. Most studied Eschatologists believe these ‘fearful sights’ and massive natural disasters are all part of the ‘CONVERGENCE’ of signs that this Biblical and prophetic age is closing. Most people who study prophecy are familiar with the routine reference(s) made that these things will be like a woman having labor pains, growing in intensity, frequency, size and duration.

‘It’s a miracle I’m alive’: Why so many pregnant women are dying in Venezuela

The Telegraph. August 29, 2019.

Jessica Ramírez shows me images of a recent ultrasound. Just before it was taken, she’d tried to illegally abort the foetus, but nearly died in the process.

Eighteen-year-old Jessica, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, says that she was raped one night over Easter and realised she was pregnant several weeks later.

“I didn’t want [the baby]… because it’s really hard, primarily because of the situation in the country.”

In Venezuela, everyone speaks of the “situation” – a worsening economic and social crisis whose main victims are women and children. As the country’s health system collapses due to a serious lack of resources, staff and maintenance, maternal deaths have skyrocketed.

In 2016 they rose by 66 per cent, to 756 deaths in one year, government figures show. The maternal death rate is now 110 women per 100,000, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) – 12 times higher than in the United Kingdom and far above the regional average.

Exacerbating the risks for pregnant women is the fact that abortion is mostly illegal.

Jessica was told that a plant-based liquor called “chuchuhuasa” could induce abortions. She drank a litre of it, and woke up in hospital 12 hours later.

“It’s a miracle I’m alive,” she says. 

Venezuelan women’s advocates believe that unwanted pregnancies and dangerous abortions are rising as contraceptives become increasingly scarce and unaffordable. While reliable statistics are hard to obtain, one recent UN report estimates that one in five maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortions.

Other women with few resources try to abort their babies by putting objects into their vaginas, such as knitting needles and clothes hangers. Some even lift weights.

This could lead to fatal infections or haemorrhages, says Alba Carosio of the women’s rights organisation Entrompe de Falopio, as many can’t afford the safer option of going to a clandestine doctor.

“The poorer women are those risking their lives,” she says.

Jessica’s first attempt to abort her baby failed. A month later, she tried a more conventional option – Misoprostol pills, commonly used for home-based abortions. Online vendors sell them for anything from 30,000 bolivars per pill (around £2) – a significant chunk of Venezuela’s 40,000 bolivar monthly minimum wage.

Ramírez exchanged her phone for five pills on the black market. But they didn’t work.

“We have an emergency here,” says Dr José Nicolás Boada, who coordinates regional health programmes for the Mérida state health body Corposalud. He is working on a plan to reduce maternal deaths – Mérida has seen at least 13 this year, a rate around twice as high as the official statistics from 2016.

As in in other parts of the country, Mérida’s health system is starved of staff and resources, with medical supplies as basic as gloves often non-existent.

At one of Mérida’s public health centres, obstetrician-gynaecologist Rosselin Zapata rushes into the waiting area to meet her patients – “Do any of you have the supplies?” she asks. By supplies, she means a Pap smear test kit and gloves, and she’s asking because the centre has none. For the consultation the patients will first have to buy them for over 10,000 bolivars (around £1 at the time) at a nearby pharmacy.

While her patients head out to find the supplies, Dr Zapata tells me that her health centre hasn’t been able to provide smear test kits since last November. Nor does it have a reliable supply of the vitamins prescribed to pregnant women. And paying for them out of pocket could easily cost an entire minimum wage, she says.

When women go into labour, the situation is no better. 

“To give birth, or to have a caesarean, patients have to bring most of the supplies with them to hospital,” Dr Zapata says

Many are simply turned away from multiple hospitals while in labour, because they lack the services or the resources. This is so common that it has a name in Venezuela: “ruleteo,” roughly translated as “going back and forth.”

“Every health centre that doesn’t receive them raises the risk of death for that woman,” says Dr María Castro, a neonatologist in Caracas.

Women are also missing their pregnancy check-ups because medical supplies and transport have become too expensive. This can cause complications during childbirth if, for example, the mother is malnourished or has high blood pressure – “factors that could have been resolved if they had been caught in time,” says Dr Carosio.

The Venezuelan government has some programmes in place for expectant mothers. One of the most well-known is “Parto Humanizado” (roughly translated as “humanised childbirth”), which provides grants and the support of trained assistants during pregnancy.

Since its launch in 2017, the government says over 760,000 people have benefited from the programme.

But advocates say that while positive, the programme does not guarantee women access to hospitals or address the root causes of maternal deaths.

There’s another difficult aspect to it – women need a “Homeland card” (“Carnet de la patria”) to qualify. The ID card was introduced in 2017 and is used by citizens to access social programmes, but is seen by many as a political tool. 

When Jessica applied for Parto Humanizado, she was told she couldn’t join because she didn’t have the card.

NGOs like the Caracas-based sexual health clinic Plafam have also been working to combat mortality rates. Plafam offers advice to women who want to terminate an unwanted pregnancy with the aim of reducing risk of death, without offering abortion services.

According to Nelmary Díaz, Plafam’s programme manager, the number of women attending the programme has doubled since 2018. She says that the government does not offer similar assistance.

For now, medical specialists are hoping that Venezuela’s health system will begin to recover, with or without government help. “We have to generate our own solutions,” says Dr Boada.

Jessica is also looking to the future, having decided to keep her child, albeit because she felt like she had run out of options.

“I feel good… well worried because what’s coming is going to be difficult… especially here in Venezuela.”

Categories: Pestilence Update

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