The Tragic Fate of the Tropical Medicine Institute at UCV – Caracas

The botanic garden in Caracas has many plants that are dying for lack of water.  It seems the botanists and gardeners have abandoned the many once well-cared-for plants on the 14-hectare grounds.  What has actually happened is that Caracas has experienced months-long water shortages.  Also, funding for the botanic garden is very low.  Without money or water, the plants don’t receive the care they need.

Neglect wasn’t always the way at the Botanic Garden or at the Instituto de Medicina Tropical – UCV located next door.   (IMT-UCV for short).  The IMT recently had its 70th birthday, but this was not an occasion for celebration.

Both institutions were founded during the 1950s.  The Botanic Garden was known as a green oasis in the heart of Caracas.  The IMT was known for extensive research including discovering the first food-borne outbreak of Chagas’ disease.

Fast forward to now…

What has happened at the Instituto de Medicina Tropical during 2014-2018 is worse than neglect.  There has been a shocking total of 71 robberies at the IMT during the past four years.  Valentina Oropeza’s article is an important read for anyone who wants to know what has happened to the Instituto de Medicina Tropical.

The robbers have stolen obviously valuable items like computers and microscopes, but they have also stolen things that no one would normally hock at the pawn shop down the street – toilets, doors, a bathroom sink, and mouse cages.  They have stolen or let lab mice go.  They have now stripped the wiring and plumbing pipes out of the Institute.

This is either a situation of total societal breakdown, or it is deliberate indifference targeted against tropical medicine work at a time of epidemics, including 406,000 cases of malaria in 2017, in Venezuela.

The IMT-UCV is one of two major tropical medicine facilities in Venezuela.  The other was formerly known as the Direccion de Malariología and is located in Maracay.  The Maduro government is also failing to support that institution.

In future posts, I hope to discuss some of the rather noble history of these two institutions.  To do that, we need to go back to the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s-1980s.