Socialism’s bitter fruit in Venezuela: Hundreds of children dying of malnutrition


    By Mark Ellis —

    People lined up to buy chicken in Caracas (Juan Barreto/AFP)

    For the last five months, the New York Times has been monitoring 21 public hospitals in Venezuela. They discovered there are a record numbers of children entering the hospital with severe malnutrition and hundreds who have died, revealing the terrible suffering produced by the socialist economic upheaval of the last few years.

    There have been long lines for food, protests and riots over food, soldiers guarding bakeries and angry crowds ransacking grocery stores.

    “Deaths from malnutrition have remained a closely guarded secret by the Venezuelan government,” according to the Times. Their investigation revealed emergency rooms overwhelmed by children with serious malnutrition.

    Dr. Huníades Urbina Medina, the president of the Venezuelan Society of Childcare and Pediatrics, said doctors were seeing malnutrition that resembled the type found in refugee camps — something that never happened in oil-rich Venezuela before its socialist revolution.

    In some low-income families, parents are going days without eating, according to the Times. Women are getting sterilized in large numbers to avoid bringing another mouth into the world to feed. Street gangs are scavenging for food scraps.

    “Crowds of adults storm Dumpsters after restaurants close. Babies die because it is hard to find or afford infant formula, even in emergency rooms,” according to the Times.

    “Sometimes they die in your arms just from dehydration,” Dr. Milagros Hernández told the Times. “In 2017 the increase in malnourished patients has been terrible,” she added. “Children arrive with the same weight and height of a newborn.”

    Esteban Granadillo, brought into the hospital at 18-days, suffering severe malnutrition (Meredith Kohut/NYT)

    As the socialist economic crisis deepened in 2015 and 2016, the cases of serious malnutrition at the leading pediatric health center in the capital more than tripled and this year looks worse.

    “The Venezuelan government has tried to cover up the extent of the crisis by enforcing a near-total blackout of health statistics, and by creating a culture in which doctors are often afraid to register cases and deaths that may be associated with the government’s failures,” the Times reported.

    Alarmingly, the mortality rate for children under 4 weeks old increased a hundredfold in 2015. Maternal mortality increased nearly fivefold in the same period.

    Some 11,446 children under the age of one-year died in 2016 — a 30 percent increase in one year — as the socialist economic crisis worsened.

    President Nicolás Maduro has refused to accept international aid, which many Christian groups would be willing to supply. He blames Venezuela’s economic crisis on foreign adversaries like the U.S., which he claims is conducting a financial war against Venezuela.

    Venezuela has the largest known oil reserves in the world. When oil prices fell in 2014, food prices jumped dramatically. Inflation now resembles Weimar Germany; it may climb to 2,300 percent next year, according to the IMF.

    Surprisingly, a survey found that 44% of young people in the U.S. prefer socialism for a socioeconomic system. Fidel Castro is still a hero to many liberals in America.

    Columnist Jonah Goldberg finds this trend among young people in the U.S. unsettling. “I wouldn’t be so concerned about the rising support for socialism among young people in the U.S., save for the fact it’s been accompanied by a modest decline in support for democracy too.”


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