An honest newsletter about Venezuela will not be a happy newsletter right now. The country is in crisis, we are running late getting this first newsletter of the year out, but we are making a difference! 
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The Collapse of Family Planning
and Reproductive Health in Venezuela

We are now the only reliable family planning service provider in our entire
state of Sucre, if not in the whole eastern half of the country. 
We often feel under siege, overwhelmed by the unmet need surrounding us. The demand for our services is enormous across the full range of reproductive years from teenagers to women approaching menopause and concerned about becoming pregnant again.
             What can we do? We just keep doing everything we can. 
We are seeing cases in reproductive health that are harsh and tragic, but they need to be brought to the light.
  • Children as young as 11 years old are being put out on the streets to somehow find a way to feed themselves, including prostitution.
  • One child had already had 19 sexual partners when she found herself pregnant and with a sexually transmitted infection at age 15. 
  • Another girl became pregnant for the first time at 13 years old, and had three children by three different fathers by the age of 18 when we were finally able to help her acquire a contraceptive method.
  • There are latchkey children on a whole new level when their parents leave the country in order to find work and hopefully send home money for food and medicine.
  • In one case, a mother left a 14-year-old girl home alone and traveled to the neighboring country of Columbia in hopes of finding work, any work (often in the sex trade). Her daughter eventually ended up with a 31-year-old homeless man who himself had nowhere else to live.
  • Teenage girls getting together with older men is not an uncommon survival arrangement for everyone involved, but frequent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections vastly complicate the situation.
We are doing everything we can to confront this crisis, in fact we have never been busier. The demand is relentless as women are simply desperate not to have another child in an impossible situation. We receive countless thank yous for making these services available, a stream of testimonials to lives positively changed for the better amidst all the difficulty here. We are grateful for this opportunity to make a difference.  We truly need all the help we can get!  
Countless news articles document what is happening in Venezuela right now. 
specifically describes in Section B.18 the harsh consequences of
the lack of access to family planning services.
Other articles paint an equally disturbing panorama:
More than one in five Venezuelans are undernourished
‘If I Had Stayed in Venezuela, We Would Have Starved’
Venezuela’s Collapse Is the Worst Outside of War in Decades, Economists Say

Venezuelan Humanitarian Crisis Is Now a Regional Emergency, New Analysis Finds
We can sadly testify to the accuracy of much of this journalism.
+ Please Help Us Respond to this Humanitarian Crisis +
In this environment, day-to-day ambient stress levels are high, but we have nonetheless started some gratifying new activities like operating on small children with painful and sometimes dangerous hernias, whose parents are grateful beyond words. Our experience has shown that supporting women in family planning should ideally include support for their overall reproductive health, pre and postnatal care, and even some pediatric care for their children. This is often not economically feasible, but given the collapse of public health here in Venezuela, we always try to do what we can.
Two mothers with their children prior to hernia surgery with pediatric surgeon Dra. Bianelys on the right. We start with family planning for the mothers, and then extend our support to these families in need however we can, thanks to the dedicated medical personnel that we work with. 
We would like to extend a special thank you here to the Erik E. and Edith H. Bergstrom Foundation for continuing to support our work in 2019. With their support, we have been able to reach many more women with longer acting contraceptives like IUDs and Implants. 
  “When we are dreaming alone, it is only a dream.
When we are dreaming with others, it is the beginning of reality.”
    Dom Helder Camara

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