Science

“Help me save my mother”: with the virus, crowdfunding explodes in Venezuela

“Save my grandparents”, “in intensive care, he needs your help”: in Venezuela, calls for crowdfunding to deal with Covid-19 have exploded in a country in the midst of economic slump.

Four members of her family affected by the virus, no savings and a saturated public health system: Gabriela Rodriguez, 31, pledged her car and posted an ad on “Gofundme”, the most famous platform in the country .

“It’s a nightmare, a horror,” said the young woman, who lost her job in a travel agency due to the pandemic and now survives on $ 80 a month by managing accounts on social networks.

Far from the $ 300 a day she would need to pay for drugs for her 59-year-old mother, her 80- and 67-year-old grandparents and a 52-year-old cousin. Due to a lack of places in the overwhelmed hospitals, Gabriela cares for them herself at home.

Venezuela has been facing a second epidemic wave of coronavirus since the beginning of March, notably with the Brazilian variant of Covid-19, which the authorities say “more virulent”.

The country has recorded 165,000 cases including more than 20,000 in March, for just under 1,700 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to official figures. The opposition and NGOs believe that these figures are largely underestimated.

– Singer, politician, host –

The country, which has so far received less than a million Russian and Chinese vaccines, is also awaiting vaccines through the Covax mechanism of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 at Simon Bolivar airport on March 29, 2021 in La Guaira, Venezuela (AFP / Archives – Federico PARRA)

Public establishments are currently overwhelmed and hospitalization in private clinics, also taken by storm, costs between 100 and 300 dollars per day. Inaccessible for the vast majority of Venezuelans in a country in full doldrums and where the minimum wage is $ 1 per month.

Shaken by a deep political crisis, Venezuela is facing the worst economic crisis in its recent history. Added to this are the American and European economic sanctions to try to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power, whose re-election in 2018 is considered fraudulent by part of the international community.

Masked people in a shopping street in Caracas, April 6, 2021 in Venezuela (AFP - Pedro Rances Mattey)

Masked people in a shopping street in Caracas, April 6, 2021 in Venezuela (AFP – Pedro Rances Mattey)

“It’s gofundme or die,” says Maria Angelina Castillo, who has cancer and has appealed for her treatments.

According to the government, 23,500 beds reserved for Covid patients are available across the country, but “the demand is largely exceeding the supply,” said Dr Jaime Lorenzo, from the NGO Medicos Unidos Venezuela. “The saturation is great and this is reflected on social networks” where calls for help are increasing, he notes.

By typing Covid-19, on the search engine of Gofundme in Venezuela, we come across no less than 2,300 requests.

Money, drugs, oxygen tanks … Requests for help abound and spare no one.

A singer and even a politician have asked for donations for treatment as a famous host, who launched a campaign, has now died.

Caregivers in the intensive care unit for patients with Covid-19, March 19, 2021 in a hospital in Caracas, Venezuela (AFP / Archives - Federico PARRA)

Caregivers in the intensive care unit for patients with Covid-19, March 19, 2021 in a hospital in Caracas, Venezuela (AFP / Archives – Federico PARRA)

“I know the situation is tough for everyone, but if you can help me with even a small donation,” Gabriela wrote on her ad. “When my mother was in crisis, they couldn’t take her anywhere. It was the greatest despair of my life,” she said, her voice broken with emotion.

She has so far raised 1,075 dollars out of the 5,000 requested.

Without these donations, she said, “I would be burying my grandmother right now.”

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