CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Zoe Martano is no stranger to misery. At 6, she has spent half of her life in and out of a Venezuelan hospital, being prodded and poked, rushed to the ICU and hooked up to IV lines meant to keep her alive until her country’s crises dissipate.
Only then might the young leukemia victim be able to undergo the bone marrow transplant doctors say she desperately needs.
Except for a few charity-aided cases, poor Venezuelan children have not received organ or bone marrow transplants since 2017. Dozens of children have died since, including 25 this year, according to a parent organization. Only the wealthy in this socialist country can get a transplant.
For Andrea Velázquez, Zoe’s mom, the lives of her daughter and the other roughly 150 children awaiting transplants are in the hands of the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
“It is very difficult to explain to a mother who lost her son that ‘Look, we don’t have the resources to make the hospital optimal to do a transplant,’” Velázquez said.
“If the resources were better managed, obviously, we would have better hospitals and we would not be going through what we are going through.”
The troubled South American country once had a successful transplant program. Between 1967 and 2000, more than 3,100 kidney procedures alone took place. By 2016, that number would more than double thanks to a public-private partnership that included public awareness campaigns, an organ procurement system and assistance for low-income patients.
The National Transplant Organization of Venezuela, which was privately administered and publicly funded, served minors and adults in need of a variety of organs, including heart, liver and kidneys. But after Maduro took office following the death of President Hugo Chavez in 2013, the government demanded full control of the program.
In June 2017, health officials told the country’s 14 transplant centers that they would be closed for three months to resolve medication-related issues, according to Lucila Cárdenas de Velutini, a member of the organization’s board of directors. The service interruption became permanent.
The country now lacks a program to harvest organs from dead people, which was overseen by the organization.
Even some charitable options have been lost. For years, the Houston-based Simon Bolivar Foundation, a charity funded by Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-run oil giant PDVSA, covered the costs of transplants for Venezuelan children in other countries. But the foundation stopped paying the bills in 2019 after the U.S. imposed economic sanctions blocking companies from dealing with PDVSA.
The sanctions make it very difficult for Maduro’s government to access overseas assets and earnings, including those from Citgo. Maduro has blamed them for a wide range of issues afflicting Venezuelans. But the sanctions do not prohibit transactions involving food and medicines “intended to be used to relieve human suffering,” according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Many of the children waiting for a transplant, including Zoe, receive care at a hospital in the capital of Caracas. The organization their parents created to push the government into action, Santi y sus Amigos, estimates that more than 100 children have died since 2017.
Children like 9-year-old Jeannys Herrera, who died three months ago after about two years of waiting for a kidney transplant. Her mother, Gineth Gil, periodically visits her grave at a municipal cemetery in Caracas, sweeping it with a makeshift hand broom and playing music for her child.
“Just as my daughter died with hope, there are other children who are still alive and want hope, want to have a quality of life, (want) to be transplanted,” Gil said.
In September, Santi y sus Amigos proposed equipping an abandoned area of a hospital to exclusively provide bone marrow transplants — a move it estimated could save at least 60 lives in less than a year.
The group also suggested that the government enter into agreements with private Venezuelan hospitals that have the capacity to carry out pediatric transplants.
“We see how day by day, the children’s health is deteriorating without much hope,” they wrote.
Cárdenas said costs can range between $70,000 and $100,000 for a transplant. That’s a daunting price tag in a country where the average minimum monthly wage is about $2.
Parents also placed pairs of shoes — each with the date of death of the child who once wore them — outside the Mexican embassy in an effort to draw attention to their plight as discussions between the government and opposition kicked off in Mexico City.
But the negotiations — intended to find a way out of the years-long stalemate that has afflicted Venezuela — were suspended last month.
Liver For $160,000! China Makes Billions From Uyghur Muslims’ Black Market Organ Trade, Report Makes Startling Revelations
Nearly 80,000 Uyghurs were trafficked to factories across the country between 2017 and 2019, the Herald Sun newspaper said citing the ASPI report.
Beijing: China’s Xinjiang province has become a hub of alleged forced organ harvesting of the Uyghurs as the country makes billions from it, according a media report. The report makes some startling revelations regarding the much speculated man-made humanitarian crisis surrounding the Uyghur Muslims in China. The crisis of the Uyghur Muslims has called for an outcry from various human rights non-government organisations and governments across the world.
According to the Herald Sun, Beijing’s mass imprisonment of an estimated 1.5 million people, with many allegedly subjected to barbaric acts including forced organ harvesting and sterilisation, needs particular condemnation. The minority community are put under strict surveillance and are monitored through CCTV cameras. They are prohibited from leaving the area and have barriers on the area they can cross.
The places of worship of the community have been taken down without issuing any warnings by the government, reported the newspaper. The Uyghur Muslims are sent to the ‘education centres’ after being dragged from their homes, reported Herald Sun. The prisoners are beaten and violent methods of interrogation are taken up for obtaining false confessions. Seen as an attempt to control the population, the women are sterilised on a mass scale, according to the newspaper.
Forced to live in dormitories, undergo mandatory ideological training.
Nearly 80,000 Uyghurs were trafficked to factories across the country between 2017 and 2019, the newspaper reported citing the ASPI report. “In factories far away from home, they typically live in segregated dormitories, undergo organised Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours, are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances,” said Herald Sun quoting the report.
Some more points to know about this big story:
A trade of at least USD 1 billion is estimated in the black market organ trade in a year.
The hospitals that carry out the organ transplant are reportedly found not too far from the detention centers.
The hospitals and the short waiting lists indicate that there has been “forced organ harvesting” for a very long time on a large scale, according to the newspaper.
Herald Sun further reported that the healthy liver fetches around USD 160,000 in the black market organs.
Citing an investigation published in the Taiwan News, the newspaper reported that the assets worth USD 84 billion were seized from the Uyghurs in recent years, real estate comprising the majority of such assets.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom on Friday raised serious concerns about the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang province and supported an international call on China to allow the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ unfettered access to the region.