Children in Venezuela are suffering from and dying of acute malnutrition at a staggering rate, according to a report from The New York Times published Sunday.
The Times spoke to doctors at 21 public hospitals across the country, who say there have been roughly 2,800 cases of child malnutrition and nearly 400 deaths due to the condition in the last year.
The oil-rich South American country has been enveloped in a political and economic crisis for more than a year, resulting in soaring inflation and a shortage of food, medicine and other basic necessities. Venezuela first entered into a recession in 2014.
The result of a five-month investigation, the Times’ interactive report includes firsthand accounts of several families who’d lost months-old children after being unable to find baby formula.
“Sometimes they die in your arms just from dehydration,” Dr. Milagros Hernández, a doctor who works at a children’s hospital in the northern city of Barquisimeto, told the newspaper.
Hernández said she saw a spike in malnourished patients by the end of 2016.
“But in 2017 the increase in malnourished patients has been terrible,” she added. “Children arrive with the same weight and height of a newborn.”
The Times also examined other symptoms of the country’s crisis: malnutrition among adults, children joining violent street gangs as a result of a lack of food at home, and women seeking sterilization after it became too difficult to properly care for a child in the country’s current state.
Rising mortality rates in Venezuela made headlines in May, after then–Health Minister Antonieta Caporale’s department released the government’s first health statistics in two years.
The data showed infant mortality had increased by 30 percent and maternal mortality by 65 percent. Malaria cases had also skyrocketed. Caporale was abruptly fired days later.
Still today, at the end of 2020, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has refused to accept humanitarian aid as millions of Venezuelans face hunger and a lack of basic necessities.