The United States on Thursday requested that the UN Security Council hold a meeting next week to discuss the worsening humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, diplomats said.
The meeting, expected to be held on Wednesday, comes amid growing alarm over the impact of the economic and political crises in Venezuela on families and children.
An internal UN report seen by AFP last week said seven million people — about 24 percent of Venezuela\’s population — are in need of humanitarian aid, lacking access to food and medical care.
Some 3.7 million people suffer from undernourishment — three times the rate from the 2010-2012 period, according to the UN report. At least 22 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
President Nicolas Maduro has blamed US sanctions for Venezuela\’s economic problems but opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself interim leader, says government corruption and mismanagement are at fault.
Guaido is recognized by the United States and about 50 other governments.
In a note circulated to the council, the US mission to the United Nations asked for an open meeting to allow the council to be briefed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres or his representative on the crisis.
"Given the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country, we believe a briefing is necessary and timely," said the note seen by AFP.
– Humanitarian emergency –
Maduro has charged that the United States is using humanitarian aid as a political tool to overthrow him.
Human Rights Watch and a group of US public health experts released a report Thursday detailing severe medicine and food shortages in Venezuela combined with the spread of disease resulting in a "complex humanitarian emergency."
They called for a full-scale response from the United Nations to address the crisis.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body was scaling up aid to Venezuela but stressed that relief agencies require the consent of the government to expand their operations.
The Red Cross last week said it would begin distributing aid to Venezuela.
At least seven people were killed and dozens injured in February when the United States sought to bring in aid to Venezuela in an operation denounced by Maduro as a foreign conspiracy to destabilize his government.
The United States in February asked the council to adopt a resolution demanding new presidential elections and unimpeded deliveries of humanitarian aid, but that measure was vetoed by Russia and China.
Russia has accused Washington of seeking regime change in Venezuela while China has stressed that there should be no international meddling in the South American country\’s affairs.