Chemistry instrumentation—a critical need in Venezuelan labs

May 22, 2019

Venezuela’s story is a sad one—it went from being the richest country in South America in the 70’s and 80’s to being one of the world’s poorest in 2019. The peace and prosperity that once filled the country has been replaced with violence and extreme suffering. Venezuela is now facing one of the worst humanitarian crises ever to occur in the Western Hemisphere. Nearly 90 percent of the country’s population lives below the poverty level and more than half of the families are unable to meet their most basic needs for food and hygiene.1 In fact, malnutrition levels are so critical that the Secretary General of the Organization of American States is quoted as saying, “Newborns in Syria have a better chance of survival than those born in Venezuela today.”

While the dictatorial government regime argues that there is not a crisis, the United Nations (UN) and the United Stated of America (USA) have confirmed the existence of the crisis and the terrible impact it is having on the people of Venezuela. Both the UN and the World Health Organization (WHO) have reported alarming statistics that confirm the magnitude of the problem. According to the Washington Post, in 2018, the United Nations Food and Agricultural organization indicated that between 2015 and 2017, 11.7 percent of the

Venezuelan population (around 3.7 million), was undernourished. Unofficial statistics indicate that 80 percent of Venezuelans are food insecure with a high percentage of children under five with severe malnutrition surpassing the WHO threshold for crises.2

Building a small STAT lab

As a native of Venezuela, and a healthcare professional in the laboratory field here in the United States, it has become my mission to help those in need. Utilizing my Venezuelan family and friends as intermediaries, we’ve identified two organizations that focus on helping children. One organization focuses on providing children with food, education, and comfort while they recuperate from intense malnutrition. The other is an oncology clinic that provides accessible cancer services for pediatric patients. They also provide treatment for patients with leukemia among other blood disorders.

However, the crisis in Venezuela is so critical that these two organizations are struggling to find supplies to help the children. The shortage is so bad in the oncology laboratory that patients may experience a lack of services for up to three months. Currently, the lab can only perform manual hematology tests and they are without a chemistry analyzer. Basic testing is not available, and doctors have been forced to treat patients “blindly.” Mortality rates have gone through the roof. The situation is so dire that on many occasions, the medical facilities find themselves without access to electricity or even water. Compounded by the absence of basic sanitation, diseases that were once eradicated long ago are now on the rise— including leprosy, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever. I’ve been told lab testing has now become a commodity; only those with money can afford to go to a private laboratory for testing.  

POCT chemistry equipment need

Thanks to generous contributions and the full support of my employer, Visiun, I have been able to prepare a shipment to facilitate a point-of-care instrument for hematology testing. Soon, I will be able to open a GoFundMe page to help regions that are the most hardly hit. Chemistry analyzers have been the most challenging to find. I’ve been focusing on locating a (new or used) point-of-care test (POCT) or small chemistry analyzer. At minimum, an analyzer can help pediatric oncology patients get basic chemistry tests. My goal is to supply the lab with as many basic needs as possible, focusing on the super-critical patients with the hopes of saving lives.

Through interviews I’ve learned POCT analyzers are not very common and only a few private laboratories have the ability to support a range of chemistry analyzers—even if the range is just a few. However, a POCT chemistry instrument could be a vital solution to the existing problem. It provides great flexibility for minimizing calibrations and linearities studies that could become costly when using a regular analyzer. It is flexible enough for transportation and support. And most of all, it provides results that can be accurate and reliable for basic testing.

As a medical technologist, I once argued about the reliability of POCT in chemistry testing. However, after experiencing a great deal of instrument training and seeing many technological advancements, I now feel confident enough to say that POCT innovations are demonstrating a great improvement in the medical technology field. In fact, a recent article by Saif Ali Bepari said, “POCT devices in the chemistry industry are considered [important to] support targeted innovations across various disease types.” Bepari argues that POCT devices are, “crucial in achieving universal healthcare targets and the usage of POC testing devices is set to increase at higher-tier health and laboratory settings across developed and emerging economies in the coming years.”3

How you can help

As a profound activist of accurate and reliable chemistry test results, I believe that the flexibility of training, transportation, and cost effectiveness of POCT chemistry devices will help resolve major laboratory crises in underdeveloped and crisis-ridden countries such as Venezuela.

Overall, I am very grateful that I work for a company that supports my humanitarian efforts. And most of all I am grateful to family and friends, including my Venezuelan medical technology colleagues, who have put in time and effort to support this cause.

According to many studies, at least 70 percent of medical decisions rely on lab results that give important information on an individual’s best course of treatment.4 Imagine being a sick, poor child lost in the shuffle of a crisis-ridden country, void of any laboratory testing. Imagine a sick child in the midst of extensive treatment, such as chemotherapy, without any lab tests being performed to monitor their condition. Lab tests are a necessary and fundamental part of a patient’s diagnosis and treatment. Due to the current situation in Venezuela, every medical situation has become a guessing game. Will I live? Or will I die?

Should you wish to learn more and/or contribute to my cause of finding medical laboratory equipment and/or supplies for the underserved children of Venezuela, please contact me directly at [email protected] or visit one of the organizations directly, Fundacion Kapuy:\.


  1. Prichard M. Quick facts: Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis. Mercy Corps. Published April 10, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2019. 
  2. Broner TT, Page K. Venezuela’s health crisis demands an urgent regional response. The Washington Post. Published November 26, 2018. Accessed April 25, 2019. 
  3. Salif Ali Bepari. Emerging Trends in Point-of-Care Testing. MedTech Intelligence. Published February 22, 2019. Accessed April 26, 2019. 
  4. Blumer E. 70% of Today’s Medical Decisions Depend on Laboratory Results-Lab Professionals Save Lives. bioMérieux Connection. Published April 23, 2019. Accessed April 26, 2019.