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First Red Cross humanitarian aid arrives in Venezuela

AFP  |  Caracas 

The first shipment of humanitarian aid arrived in crisis-wracked on Tuesday following approval from Nicolas Maduro's government, the organization confirmed.

"It is with great joy and responsibility that we would like to reveal that right now the first humanitarian aid shipment is entering Venezuela," said Mario Villarroel, of the organization's Venezuelan branch.

The shipment, which arrived at the airport serving Caracas, includes desperately needed medication, medical supplies and power units "that will be distributed in various hospitals," added Villarroel.

has suffered more than four years of recession marked by shortages of basic necessities such as and medicine.

The says a quarter of its 30 million population is in urgent need of aid.

Last week, Maduro and the International Committee of the (ICRC) came to an agreement to allow in the humanitarian aid.

Supplies destined for Venezuela's long-suffering population formed the basis of a stand-off between Maduro and Juan Guaido, who launched a direct challenge to the president's authority in January.

Guaido has since been recognised by more than 50 countries, including the United States, as Venezuela's interim

But despite a highly publicized campaign, he failed to force humanitarian aid stockpiled over the border in into the country after the military -- which remains loyal to Maduro -- blockaded a bridge crossing.

Maduro claimed the aid was nothing more than a smokescreen to cover a US-led invasion.

Cardboard boxes bearing the symbols of the Red Cross and movement were loaded by forklift onto trucks at the Maiquetia international airport, according to images shared on

Earlier on Tuesday an official confirmed to AFP, on the condition of anonymity, that the shipment had arrived.

But Francisco Valencia, president of the to Health and Life, voiced concerns that "there is still no clarity over what aid is arriving" and whether or not it would help the "more than 300,000 people in with a high risk condition."

Public hospitals have struggled to treat patients due to shortages of antibiotics, bandages and

The government has been unable to import what the country needs due to a lack of liquidity, in part due to a sharp drop in its production -- around a third of its level from 10 years ago -- which accounts for 96 percent of its revenue, as well as US sanctions.

Maduro has repeatedly denied Venezuela is suffering from a humanitarian crisis and blames the US for the oil-rich South American country's economic woes.

But last week he said on national TV and radio that his government and the Red Cross had agreed "to work together with UN agencies to bring into Venezuela all the humanitarian aid that can be brought."

Guaido blames government incompetence and corruption for his country's crisis.

Last month, the ICRC announced it would begin in early April a first phase of aid distribution to help 650,000 people.

ICRC president had said the operation would be "similar" to a previous one that delivered aid to

Villarroel urged both sides to avoid "politicizing this great achievement."

The UN estimates that 3.7 million Venezuelans are malnourished and 22 per cent of children younger than age five suffer from It also estimates that more than 2.7 million citizens have fled Venezuela since 2015.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, April 16 2019. 22:15 IST