Tags: Venezuela | venezuela | crisis | children | malnutrition | mortality

NYT: Venezuela Overwhelmed by Malnutrition, Mortality of Children

NYT: Venezuela Overwhelmed by Malnutrition, Mortality of Children
A woman with a sign reading 'There is no food' protests against new emergency powers decreed by President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on May 18, 2016.  (Frederico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Sunday, 17 December 2017 02:45 PM

Wracked by triple-digit inflation, shortages of food and medicine and a crisis-plagued, strong-arm socialist government, Venezuela’s children are the ones paying the steepest price, dying at alarming rates, The New York Times reported.

Since Venezuela’s economic collapse in 2014, riots and protests over the lack of affordable food have rattled cities, but deaths from malnutrition have remained a closely guarded government secret, the Times reported.

But in its five-month investigation, the Times said doctors at 21 public hospitals in 17 states across the country reported their emergency rooms were being overwhelmed by children with severe malnutrition — a condition they had rarely encountered in oil-rich Venezuela before the economic crisis.

“Children are arriving with very precarious conditions of malnutrition,” Dr. Huníades Urbina Medina, the president of the Venezuelan Society of Childcare and Pediatrics, told the Times.

“Sometimes they die in your arms just from dehydration,” another physician, Dr. Milagros Hernández, who works in the emergency room of a children’s hospital in the northern city of Barquisimeto, told the Times.

“[I]n 2017 the increase in malnourished patients has been terrible,” she told the newspaper. “Children arrive with the same weight and height of a newborn.”

The government itself has tried to cover up the extent of the crisis by enforcing a near-total blackout of health statistics, the Times reported.

The numbers that’ve come come out are mind-boggling: In the Ministry of Health’s 2015 annual report, the mortality rate for children under 4 weeks old had increased a hundredfold, from 0.02 percent in 2012 to just over 2 percent, the Times reported.

Maternal mortality had increased nearly fivefold in the same period.

After almost two years in which the government didn’t publish a single epidemiological bulletin tracking statistics like infant mortality, last April, a link suddenly appeared on the Health Ministry’s official website, leading to the unpublished bulletins showing 11,446 children under the age of 1 had died in 2016 — a 30 percent increase in one year, the Times reported.

No reports have been released since.

“In some public hospitals, the clinical diagnosis of malnutrition has been prohibited,” Dr. Huníades Urbina told the Times.

The Times reported, however, that in interviews with doctors at nine of the 21 public hospitals, there’ve been nearly 2,800 cases of child malnutrition in the last year alone, with starving children regularly brought to emergency rooms.

Nearly 400 of the children died, the doctors told the newspaper.

“Never in my life had I seen so many hungry children,” pediatrician Dr. Livia Machado, who treats the children in her practice at Domingo Luciani Hospital in the capital, Caracas, told the Times.

According to the Times, in pre-2014 Venezuela, doctors told the Times almost all of the child malnutrition cases they saw in public hospitals stemmed from neglect or abuse by parents. But in 2015 and 2016, the number of cases of severe malnutrition at the nation’s leading pediatric health center in the capital more than tripled, the doctors told the Times.

Caritas, the Roman Catholic aid group, has been weighing and measuring groups of children under 5 in working-class communities in multiple states since last year, according to the Times, finding 54 percent of children in them suffer from some sort of malnutrition.

The suffering of Venezuelan families is expected to worsen next year, fueled by inflation the International Monetary Fund warns could surpass 2,300 percent, and a government that won’t accept international aid for political reasons, the Times reported.

“If they accept the help, they accept that there is a humanitarian crisis here, and officially recognize that their population is vulnerable, and just how much their policies failed them,” Susana Raffalli, a specialist on food emergencies who consults for Caritas in Venezuela, told the Times.

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Wracked by triple-digit inflation, shortages of food and medicine and a crisis-plagued, strong-arm socialist government, Venezuela's children are the ones paying the steepest price, dying at alarming rates, The New York Times reported.
venezuela, crisis, children, malnutrition, mortality
Sunday, 17 December 2017 02:45 PM
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