Malaria resurfaces in Venezuela and back in crisis
Malaria resurfaces in Venezuela and back in crisis.The suffocating heat of the Venezuelan forest makes no difference to José Gregorio, who trembles with cold. “I have pain everywhere, fever,” he babbles.
Gregorio presents the classic symptoms of malaria, a disease eradicated many years ago from his Yukpa, but he came back strong in all of Venezuela affected by the crisis.
“He had joint pains and he started to vomit, it’s been four or five days since he ate,” said his worried wife, Marisol.
Her four-month-old baby babbles with her father in bed.
“The baby and I also had malaria,” says Marisol. “Before, it was not the case here, there was only chikungunya and dengue, malaria came back here last year.”
It does not blink at the mention of one of the other viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, whose spread was caused by the collapse of the Venezuelan health system.
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“Here” is El Tucuco, a small town at the foot of the mountains that form the border with Colombia, a three-hour drive from Maracaibo in the Venezuelan state of Zulia.
With its 3,700 inhabitants, El Tucuco is the “capital” of the Yukpas and malaria is quickly felt here, as in the rest of Venezuela, a country that could once claim to be the first to eradicate the disease in 1961.
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There are no official statistics on the extent of malaria in El Tucuco, nor on the number of deaths it causes.
But from his office at the Catholic Mission, Dr. Carlos Polanco is facing a development crisis.
Malaria resurfaces in Venezuela and back in crisis and etc
“Of the 10 people who have been tested for malaria in the village laboratory, four to five have had a positive result, which is an alarming figure.”
Brother Nelson Sandoval, a Capuchin who presides over the mission, adds: “Before joining the Order, I already knew this community and I had never seen a case of malaria.Today, we are in the midst of a pandemic.”
Tucuco is affected by Plasmodium vivax, the most widely distributed species of malaria. The deadliest strain of Plasmodium falciparum occurs in the Amazonian regions of southeastern Venezuela.
According to Sandoval and Polanco, the cause of the sudden virulence of malaria in El Tucuco is simple: the spraying missions formerly carried out by the Venezuelan government have stopped.
“And with the increase in the mosquito population, cases have exploded,” Polanco said.
Add to that the malnutrition that weakens the resistance to the disease, a new phenomenon since the economic crisis that occurred at the end of 2015.
“Before, it was possible to vary the diet, but with inflation, the Yukpa can not afford it,” instead of what they can grow, such as yucca and plantain, according to Polanco.
Rosa, 67, knows everything about malnutrition. Lying on the floor of her house, she is fighting for the third time against malaria. “The doctor weighed me yesterday – 37 kg, I had 83 kg before.”
A report published in the British medical journal The Lancet in February warned of an epidemic of malaria and dengue following the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
Between 2016 and 2017 alone, the number of malaria cases in the country has increased by 70%.