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. (Read more Venezuela stories.)