Malaria surges in Venezuela as recession decimates health system

CCTV News

Malaria surges in Venezuela as recession decimates health system

Venezuela is experiencing the steepest recession of anywhere in the world. That is putting a major strain to its public health system.

One of the many nationwide symptoms is an alarming prevalence of the potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease, malaria. In Bolivar state, where the disease – once thought to have been eradicated in Venezuela – has returned.

CCTV’s Stephen Gibbs reports the story.

Malaria surges in Venezuela as recession decimates health system

Malaria surges in Venezuela as recession decimates health system

Venezuela is experiencing the steepest recession of anywhere in the world. That is putting a major strain to its public health system.One of the many nationwide symptoms is an alarming prevalence of the potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease, malaria. In Bolivar state, where the disease – once thought to have been eradicated in Venezuela – has returned. CCTV’s Stephen Gibbs reports the story

It is the epidemic that no one talks about. But in this tiny community – Pozo Verde in Eastern Venezuela – it is clear for all to see the jaundiced complexion, the weariness and those telltale symptoms of malaria.

Inelys is currently suffering from malaria and dengue, at the same time. People wake up with bites all over my arms and my legs. There have been almost ten times the normal number of malaria cases in this small settlement this year.

There are two reasons why. One is there’s been a surge in illegal gold mining in mosquito infested areas nearby, as people struggle to find new ways to earn a living. The other is that the country has almost no anti-malarial drugs. So the pool of infected people is growing.

In the capital Caracas, there’s an additional complication. The government has declined to release any malaria statistics since early 2015.

Experts like Dr. Jaime Torres are dealing with this crisis with only semi-official information.

“This very year we have close to 150,000 cases which is more than we ever had before the control program of malaria,” Dr. Torres, director of Venezuela Institute of Tropical Medicine, said. “That figure I mentioned is a government figure. It is just that it is not publicized officially.”

Maybe because it is all too depressing. In the 1960s, following intense eradication efforts, Venezuela was officially declared malaria-free by the World Health Organization. Now it risks exporting the disease to its neighbors.

So what is the government doing? In the capital, there are some fumigation efforts.

“The government is renewing all its resources so that we can fight the transmission vector for this illness,” Enrique Patino head of Caracas Vector Control Programme said. But this is primarily against Zika and dengue. Fortunately, the altitude of Caracas is too high for malaria carrying mosquitoes.

The key problem is in the rest of the country, where malaria can thrive, and resources are exceptionally limited. And as often happens in these situations, it is the most vulnerable that get hit first, and hardest.


Dr. Kate Tulenko on Venezuela healthcare system

For more on healthcare system in Venezuela, CCTV America’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke with Dr. Kate Tulenko, Vice President of Health Systems Innovation at IntraHealth International.