Upsurge of Malaria in Venezuela Sparks Concern

WHO claims that lack of supplies has hurt anti-malaria programs in the sanction-stricken country.

By Cira Pascual Marquina
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Malaria

Malaria
Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Caracas, April 25, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) –. Venezuela saw a significant rise in the number of malaria cases last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported. According to a report issued by the United Nations body on Tuesday, the incidence of this mosquito-borne disease in 2017 jumped up 69 percent from the previous year’s figure and is in turn five times higher than the 2013 rate.

This upsurge from 240,613 cases in 2016 to over 406,000 cases in 2017 is reportedly the largest increase anywhere in the world, and it coincides with severe shortages of food and medicine in the South American country.

In a Tuesday press conference, Pedro Alonso, head of the WHO’s global malaria program, blamed the outbreak of malaria, which is mostly present in Venezuela’s eastern states, on the lack of resources and an ineffective disease control program. He added that the WHO is working with Venezuelan and regional authorities to improve the situation.

Recent sanctions imposed by the US, Canada and the EU, which include financial bans on top Caracas officials as well as the Venezuelan state, have hindered Venezuela’s ability to pay for vital imports of food, medicine and other basic goods, reportedly leaving millions in Venezuelan state funds tied up in the international financial system.

Last year, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Vice President Tareck El Aissami accused Colombia of blocking the entry of the antimalarial drug primaquine into Venezuela. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, nevertheless, denied that his country had stopped the sale of these medicines, which were later bought from India.

For his part, UN Independent Expert Alfred De Zayas has called the sanctions “a crime against humanity” and proposed that Venezuela take the US to the International Court of Justice.

Venezuelan authorities have yet to comment on the WHO report, though an early April announcement by Venezuelan Health Minister Luis Lopez indicated that vaccination and fumigations programs were beginning in six states.

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