Maduro asks for UN help on Venezuela medicine shortage

Health care workers protest medicine shortages and low salaries in Caracas, Venezuela on February 7, 2017

President Nicolas Maduro said Friday he had asked the United Nations to help address severe shortages of medicine in Venezuela, a rare acknowledgement of the crisis-hit country's desperate situation.

"I have asked the United Nations to regularize the whole medicine issue. The United Nations has the most advanced plans to recover the pharmaceutical industry's productive capacity," the leftist leader said in a speech broadcast on national television.

With Venezuela stuck in the fourth year of a deep recession, shortages of food and many essential goods, including medicine, have become rampant.

Venezuelans tell of desperately hunting for their medication at depleted pharmacies, or paying small fortunes to buy it on the black market or abroad.

Horror stories have emerged from hospitals of patients losing limbs for lack of antibiotics or dying for lack of cancer drugs.

The Venezuelan Medical Federation says hospitals have just three percent of the medicine and supplies they need.

Maduro said he had made the request in a meeting with Jessica Faieta, Latin America director for the United Nations Development Programme.

He said the medicine shortage is one of the "wounds" sustained in what he calls an "economic war" waged by business interests allegedly trying to destabilize his government.

"Resisting has been worth it. Socialism is worth it," he said.

Venezuela is home to the world's largest oil reserves, but has been hit hard by low oil prices in recent years.

The fractured opposition is trying to force Maduro from power, but despite sinking popularity he has so far managed to stymie their efforts.