In Venezuela, Doctors Do The Math On Their Own

With no official data, specialists can only guess how infectious diseases like measles and malaria are increasing in the country

Sylvia Colombo
Caracas
A nurse draws a blood sample for an HIV test at the lab of the NGO "Accion Solidaria" (Solidarity Action) in Caracas, Venezuela, November 28, 2018. Picture taken November 28, 2018. - REUTERS

Since Venezuela's Ministry of Health stopped issuing its yearly epidemiology reports in 2007, it has become harder to have a clear idea of how many people are infected and die from infectious diseases and how significant are eventual new outbreaks. 

There is an unofficial accountability system, independently created by a network of doctors who work in large Venezuelan hospitals and in secrecy exchange information that later goes to an independent database.

Another alternative is Venezuela's independent press, like the website Efecto Cocuyo, which published a special report called "Venezuela Without Numbers," in which it tries to re-establish the statistical reports previously produced by the government.

"We consider this work of utmost importance, because when this regime ends, the new government will have to take urgent public health policy measures, and it will be an impossible task if there is no data," said Cocuyo's editor in chief Josefina Ruggero.

At her private practice, pediatrician Tatiana Drummond shows a few unofficial data tables. "There is no way to go back to fight epidemics without information. Our work is incomplete, there are lacks of data, but it helps us to understand the current state of affairs."

Because the children's vaccine calendars are in disarray, diseases that were previously under control are back in full force in Venezuela.

One of the most important examples is measles. Until 2016, the World Health Organization certified Venezuela as having the disease under control. However, 2017 saw a new outbreak and one year later, the capital Caracas alone had 1,500 confirmed cases of measles. Many cases were exported to border countries like Brazil and Colombia.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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