Francisco Valencia

Medicine Hunter

In the devastating health crisis that is crippling Venezuela, Francisco Valencia fights for the right to health for all. His organization provides free medicines for those who need it.

Venezuela is a country in crisis. There are large-scale outbreaks of diseases such as measles and diphtheria and the number of children with acute malnutrition is alarming. However, hospitals are hopelessly short on supplies and doctors are leaving the country in droves to work abroad.

Francisco Valencia is leading the fight on behalf of the millions of Venezuelans who depend on expensive medicines to live. Valencia – who features in the documentary Está Todo Bien and is a special guest at the Movies that Matter Festival 2019 – is the director of the Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health and Life (Codevida). He is on a constant search for medicines.

‘We have been able to give thousands of people medicines at no cost,’ he says. ‘But the situation is serious. For chronic diseases that require high-cost medicines – such as cancer, haemophilia, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis – the shortage is 95 per cent. This puts the lives of more than 300.000 people at risk. If we add hypertension and diabetes, we are talking about 11 million people.’ Venezuelans buy medicines on the black market, look for them through social media or rely on the charity of strangers.

Codevida depends on foreign aid to bring medicines into the country. But as the government of Nicolás Maduro tries to suppress information about the extent of the crisis, Valencia’s work has been criminalized. At the same time, people are queuing in front of pharmacies only to hear that the medication they need for themselves or their children is out of stock. ‘The government is aware that the situation is critical but does not act,’ Valencia says. ‘We are facing a criminal state. It is condemning people to death.’

NOTE: Unfortunately Francisco Valencia cannot attend the festival. Efraím Vegas, who works as a doctor in Venezuela and also appears in Está Todo Bien, is representing the film.