Via The Guardian: Venezuela on the brink: a journey through a country in crisis. Excerpt and then a comment:
There is still abundant food if you have foreign currency. But up to a quarter of the population does not even earn the minimum wage of 22,500 bolivars (£18) a month. They rely on the subsidised grain, toiletries and medicine provided by the government – but there is no longer enough to go around, which leaves many not just hungry but unhealthy.
At the Luis Razetti hospital in Barcelona – a city close to the Caribbean coast – medical staff are having to cope with growing shortages of basic drugs, the re-emergence of long dormant diseases such as diphtheria, and increasing cases of malnutrition.
“We used to only read about malnutrition in medical books, but now we are seeing cases like those in Africa. Things have become far worse over the past year,” said one doctor who asked to remain anonymous.
In the paediatric ward, a three-month old baby named Luís Alberto was being treated after his weight fell from 3.5kg to 3kg as a result of diarrhoea. “His mum was too weak to lactate and we couldn’t buy infant formula, so we used soya milk,” said his grandmother Dámela Castellanos. The treatment ought to be simple – a drip and regular meals – but the hospital cannot provide either, so the family have to pay for their own stents and hope for donations of food.
Castellanos too has lost weight. “I’m on the Maduro diet,” she laughed grimly, echoing a popular phrase that blames the president for the nationwide lack of calories.
The nutrition crisis is not on the scale of sub-Saharan Africa or North Korea. On the streets, people do not look evidently malnourished and there are many roadside food hawkers for those who can pay. Imports from Brazil and Colombia have also eased some of the pressure. Yet the situation is moving in an alarming direction.
The average weight loss in Venezuela over the past five months is between 5kg and 15kg, according to the Bengoa Foundation for Food and Nutrition, which estimates that 25% of children are malnourished.
“We have enough data to show that we are between a crisis and an emergency,” said Pablo Hernandez, a Bengoa representative and professor of nutrition at the Central University of Venezuela. “Thanks to the lack of medicine and food and the increase of violence, this young generation will die younger than their parents.”
The government admits there is a problem, but claims opposition supporters in academia and the NGO sector exaggerate the numbers to stir up social unrest. The lack of official statistics, however, prompts many to assume the worst.
The Venezuelan website Efecto Cocuyo is the only source I can find for Venezuelan health news. In recent posts, it's claimed that diphtheria cases have risen to 22, and that the government has failed to notify WHO or the public about the cases. Meanwhile, the true extent of Zika and its neurological effects seems to be unknown outside some government offices in Caracas.