Explore the past, present, and future of emergency aid in our Rethinking Humanitarianism series

Venezuela’s last delta ‘doctor’

A film exploring the effect drug shortages and an exodus of trained medical professionals have had on Warao indigenous communities in Venezuela.

Graciela Fernandez
Graciela Fernandez remains one of the only trained medical professionals in her community in Venezuela. (Frederick Gillingham and Melisa Valenzuela/TNH)

Dusk begins to fall over the Orinoco Delta. A brisk Atlantic breeze meets local nurse Graciela Fernandez as she takes to a canoe on what has become a solo mission: bringing medical assistance to her endangered Warao people.

Venezuela’s Red Cross all but ceased operations in 2017 in this remote part of the country. A breakdown of law and order coupled with an acute lack of funds due to the country’s economic and political crisis has meant delivering aid to communities along this part of the Orinoco has slowed to an alarming level.

Ongoing drug shortages and an exodus of trained medical professionals are having dire consequences for Warao indigenous communities. Entire villages are at risk of being wiped out as diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis go untreated. With fuel in short supply, boats taking the few supplies that are available can take up to two weeks. Graciela feels increasingly abandoned as she is forced to face this crisis alone.

Venezuela's last delta 'doctor'

Frederick Gillingham and Melisa Valenzuela/TNH
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