Mr Maduro, 56, has faced calls to step aside in favour of 35-year-old political rival Mr Guaido, who has the backing of US President Donald Trump and many other western leaders. The country's economy is in a dire situation, with rampant inflation, while an estimated two million people have fled the country - and the World Health Organisation reported last week the South American country’s healthcare system was suffering, including programs related to disease prevention and control, especially in relation to malaria. An analysis published by Lancet Infectious Diseases Jounalist on February 21 showed a huge increase in the number of cases of malaria, Chagas disease, dengue, Zika and chikungunya, all of which are spread by mosquitoes.
Hard-won gains against malaria in particular are being rapidly reversed in Venezuela
Chris Plowe, Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
The research also showed that whereas in 2010 there were just over 29,000 cases of malaria, by 2017 this had rocketed to 411,000, underlining the seriousness of the situation.
Chris Plowe, Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, and Global Health and the director of US-based Duke Global Health Institute, said: "The global health community is indeed concerned about the situation, and rightly so.
"Hard-won gains against malaria in particular are being rapidly reversed in Venezuela, and the flow of people leaving the country puts their neighbours at risk as well.
"Malaria is eliminated when we get all the parasites out of the people, so that there’s no more infection for mosquitoes to transmit.
"But the mosquitoes are still there, and so if malaria resurges where it’s almost been eliminated, or if it’s reintroduced to areas where it has been eliminated, the mosquitoes are ready and able to resume transmission.
"This is a risk not only in neighbouring countries, but in other destination countries for the exodus of Venezuelans, including the United States, were we still have mosquitoes capable of transmitting malaria throughout much of the country.
Mr Plowe said cooperation was vital if the alarming number of infections was to be reduced, stressing recent examples of opposing factions working together in the face of public health risks.
He explained: "In the long term, social and political stability is the best recipe for controlling and eliminating mosquito-borne diseases.
"But civil and political unrest don’t always have to result in breakdown of disease control efforts.
"Even when there’s political and social conflict, all parties can still agree on good health as a goal and a priority - for example, in Myanmar, political adversaries agreed to work together on malaria elimination even while still engaged in armed conflict.
"Health professionals go to work every day hoping to improve health in some of the most unstable and dangerous places in the world.
This is the world they live in - they go where the needs are greatest, which means straight into troubled situations and conflict zones.
"So long as they are not directly targeted - as has happened, tragically, in some places - they will continue to do their work.
"Politicians need to protect and help them - and showing a commitment to health is the best way to win hearts and minds. I hope politicians everywhere remember this.”
Speaking last week, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said: "Venezuela has increased its efforts to improve access to services, particularly at the first level of care.
"The health system in Venezuela is currently under stress due to a combination of factors, including health workforce migration and shortages of medicines and health supplies, particularly at the secondary and tertiary levels of care.
"This has affected the overall operation of the health network and its capacity to rapidly expand its response to emergencies and disease outbreaks.
"However, the health system still retains some capacity, including health infrastructure and the availability of human resources that can be mobilised and supported to implement immediate remedial actions.”
Basic and complementary units of the Interagency Emergency Health Kit, which provides medicines and medical devices for 10,000 people for approximately three months, have already been distributed, while other supplies and medicines were also distributed, reaching a total of 50 tons across all hospitals, Mr Jasarevic added.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States is still working on plans to get humanitarian aid delivered to Venezuela after troops loyal to President Nicolas Maduro violently drove back foreign aid convoys last weekend.
He added: “We are hopeful that over the next couple of weeks, we can really begin to make a dent in that problem. It is a big problem.”