Desperate Venezuelans Turn to Mines, Find Malaria

Disease makes a resurgence in dire times
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2016 11:57 AM CDT
Updated Aug 20, 2016 11:29 AM CDT
Desperate Venezuelans Turn to Mines, Find Malaria
In this file photo made available by the University of Notre Dame via the CDC, an Anopheles funestus mosquito takes a blood meal from a human host.   (AP Photo/CDC, University of Notre Dame, James Gathany)

More than a half-century ago, the World Health Organization recognized Venezuela as the first nation to wipe out malaria in its populated areas. It was even ahead of the US on that count. Today, though, the disease is making a ferocious comeback in the nation, even if the government fails to officially acknowledge it, reports the New York Times. The reason? The country's poverty is forcing desperate people—even formerly white-collar workers who once belonged to the middle class—to return to illegal gold mines in remote jungle regions in the hope of making a living.

"As they hunt for gold in watery pits, the perfect breeding ground for the mosquitoes that spread the disease, they are catching malaria by the tens of thousands," writes Nicholas Casey. And when the ill miners return to the cities, the disease spreads further. “It is a situation of national shame,” says a former Venezuelan health minister. "I was seeing this kind of thing when I was a medical student a half-century ago.” Based on figures compiled by doctors, the number of cases rose 72% to 125,000 in the first six months of the year, and the growth shows no sign of slowing. Click for the full story. Or read one woman's account of struggling to keep food on her family's table. (More Venezuela stories.)

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