Mosquito Borne Diseases Surge in Venezuela, Infant and Maternal Deaths Rise

Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria surged last year in Venezuela while infant deaths have likewise increased, according to recently released government data.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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(Muhammad Mahdi Karim / CC)
(Muhammad Mahdi Karim / CC)

Puebla, Mexico, May 11, 2017 ( – Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria surged last year in Venezuela while infant deaths have likewise increased, according to recently released government data.

Cases of malaria increased by 76 percent, while both diphtheria and Zika saw notable increases, according to data from a health ministry report. The bulk of cases of these diseases were concentrated in the country's south, including the states of Amazonas and Bolivar. In terms of malaria, most of the country’s north and west remained largely unaffected by the outbreak.

“To date there is a cumulative of 235,881 cases [in 2016], which represents an increase of 75.7 percent over the same period [in 2015],” the report stated.

Meanwhile, the ministry reported a total of 324 cases of diphtheria, a disease which was eradicated in Venezuela in 1992.

The report also noted an uptick in the generally non-lethal Chikungunya virus, registering 3460 cases nationwide in 2016.

It’s unclear when the report was released. The ministry still hasn’t officially announced the new data, or held a press conference to discuss its results. The ministry likewise hasn’t responded to media inquiries. The report is nonetheless the first of its kind in at least two years, with government health data going largely unpublished since 2015.

Along with tracking the progression of mosquito-borne diseases, the report also showed an increase in the total number of infant deaths. According to the data, in 2016 11,272 babies died before their first birthday, compared to 8704 in the previous year. That represented a 29.50 percent increase in infant deaths. However, this figure does not represent Venezuela’s infant mortality rate, which is determined by comparing total deaths to live births.

The raw increase in infant deaths is not without precedent in Venezuela in recent years. In 2012, the number of infant deaths jumped 19.2 percent over the previous year, increasing from 5878 to 7009, while overall infant mortality in fact decreased. 

According to the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, Venezuela’s infant mortality rate has been steadily falling since the 1960s, and was estimated at 31.7 per 1000 live births in 2015 – the latest year available.

The report doesn’t include live birth figures, nor does it provide an updated infant mortality rate.

It does, however, show an increase in maternal deaths, which represents the total number of women who died giving birth. In 2015, 444 women across Venezuela died giving birth; in 2016, that figure was 739.

The report comes as Venezuela continues to weather a severe economic crisis triggered by the collapse of global oil prices, the source of over 90 percent of Venezuela's foreign currency earnings. The downturn has seen acute shortages in a number of drugs and medicines as well as deteriorating conditions in the health sector. 

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