They have been born in 2013, when the food disaster worsened in Venezuela. They are 5 years previous, they’re malnourished, and the injury prompted to their well being is irreparable. The Pitazo in alliance with CONNECTAS toured eight cities and, with them, eight totally different realities. These are the tales of youngsters who grow up at an obstacle because they’re born in the midst of the humanitarian emergency the nation is experiencing.
An investigation by Johanna Osorio Herrera / Armando Altuve, María Vallejo, Sheyla Urdaneta, Jesymar Añez, Liz Gascón, Mariangel Moro, Rosanna Batistelli, correspondent group of El Pitazo, in alliance with CONNECTAS.
Juan Luis could be counted the bones on the pores and skin: he is malnourished. His analysis was decided by the specialists of the Tucupita Mother and Youngster Hospital in Delta Amacuro -state with one of the most important indigenous populations in the country- the place he was hospitalized in August 2018 for continual diarrhea. It will not be the one time you’re hospitalized for the remaining of your life. The consequences of hunger before the age of 5, their age, are irreversible. In his adulthood, Juan Luis shall be extra susceptible than different men to endure from cardiovascular illnesses or diabetes; additionally to carry out less work, or have intellectual deficiencies, all in consequence of hunger immediately.
From conception to 5 years, particularly the primary 1000 days, completed after two and a half years of life, develops 75 % or extra of mind tissue and its structure. The neuronal scheme, which permits the human being to understand their surroundings: seeing, smelling, listening and reacting to stimuli, is outlined at this stage: early childhood, in agreement with worldwide organizations linked to youngster care, such because the Youngsters's Fund. the United Nations for Youngsters (Unicef). The progress of Juan Luis is dependent upon what he eats. When you eat properly, your neuronal circuit can be favorable on your maturity. If you don’t, the injury to your body and mind shall be irreparable.
Juan Luis doesn’t eat nicely, even when his mother tries to treatment it. He cannot because his household is poor, like 87 % of Venezuelan families, in line with the Survey of Dwelling Circumstances (Encovi) 2017, carried out by universities and non-governmental organizations. His story shouldn’t be the only one; it’s repeated in lots of youngsters of his age. Until March 2018, in Venezuela, solely 22 % of youngsters underneath the age of 5 had a traditional vitamin standing, in response to the Saman report by Cáritas.
Eating correctly is one of your primary rights. In accordance with the Meals and Agriculture Group of the United Nations (FAO), Juan Luis should all the time have “physical and economic access to sufficient food, safe and nutritious, to meet their dietary needs.” It’s the State that must assure the food, however it doesn’t. In accordance with Encovi 2017, in 80 % of Venezuelan households there’s hunger (a term that encompasses malnutrition in all its phases), or food insecurity, as the FAO calls it. And, based on what FAO suggests, this confirms the humanitarian emergency, reached when a country “in a given yr cannot fill with its personal assets the meals deficit brought on by a catastrophe and subsequently needs external meals assist. “
In Venezuela, baby malnutrition is the proof of the emergency, specifically, international acute malnutrition in youngsters beneath 5 years of age, resembling Juan Luis, born in 2013, the yr that Nicolás Maduro assumed the Presidency of the Republic.
For the World Health Organization (WHO) if 10 % of youngsters (beneath five) in a country endure from malnutrition – because they haven’t had a adequate quantity of meals and people who ingested did not have the required nutrients -, they need to activate protocols of consideration for humanitarian crisis. Exceeding the 15 % threshold signifies a public health emergency state of affairs of a humanitarian nature. In Venezuela, acute international malnutrition in youngsters of this age reached 10 % in January 2017, and exceeded the 15 % threshold between September and December, when it reached 16 %, in line with studies by Cáritas Venezuela. The figure rose to 17 % in the course of the first quarter of 2018.
Hungry youngsters in Venezuela distinction with the Plan de la Patria – the strategic letter introduced by Chávez for his reelection and taken up by Maduro – which establishes as one of its basic aims “to achieve food sovereignty to guarantee the sacred right to food” , and as a strategic objective “to ensure a healthy diet for the population, with special attention in early childhood”. The figures reveal a actuality that the federal government is making an attempt to deny: in Venezuela, since September 2017, there’s a humanitarian emergency, which might be improved if exterior food assist is accepted. It has its origin within the fallacious socio-economic insurance policies taken 15 years in the past by Hugo Chávez, and perpetuated by his successor Nicolás Maduro, scary a deepening of malnutrition since 2013.
What hunger leaves
Valentina is 5 years previous, but her body seems like that of a smaller woman. It measures 86 centimeters and weighs 9 kilos, when it ought to measure somewhat multiple meter and weigh twice as a lot. She doesn’t converse, she isolates herself, and the one straightforward smiles are provoked by Carmen Toro, the lady who takes care of her. She is an ex-girlfriend of her father, who for months left her, already malnourished, in the can residence the place they reside, in the poor group of Valles del Tuy, in the peripheries of Caracas; Six months earlier, her biological mother additionally deserted her, and left her together with her father.
In distinction, Dayerlin is extra extroverted. It have to be, in an effort to eat: by day, the 5-year-old woman begs for money and food in Monagas, the japanese state of the nation; At night time, he sleeps together with his mom and his seven brothers in a home attempt, a space of 5 meters long by 6 meters vast, which is room, mattress and toilet at the similar time.
Based on research by Cáritas Venezuela, barely greater than half of the households in some of the poorest parishes in the nation turn to garbage bins and to beg for meals. And, based on the data of the pediatric emergency of the Dr. Manuel Núñez Tovar University Hospital, in Monagas, where Dayerlin lives, many of the youngsters of these poor families don’t even develop: 42 infants have died during 2018 malnutrition, a mean of 4.6 deaths per thirty days. 70 % of these babies, that is, 28, lived within the city space of Maturín while the remaining lived in different municipalities.
Valentina and Dayerlin are separated 485 kilometers away, but they are joined by poverty, hunger, and their penalties. There’s nonetheless an extended strategy to go to be ladies, however their maturity is predictable, as a result of of the hunger they have suffered: cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, sick youngsters; disability to study and ease to be manipulated; tendency to violence and drug use. The injury brought on by malnutrition to Venezuelan youngsters – physically, intellectually and emotionally – is irreparable, in accordance with specialists in baby improvement.
“Socially, hunger in Venezuela has generated a deterioration of intrafamilial relations. There are fights for meals, there are kids stealing lunch packing containers from one another, youngsters abused because they ate the eggs that have been for the other boy. There are inverted family roles, fathers and moms who commit suicide because they do not really feel capable of buy enough food, and on the neighborhood degree, the issue of hunger brought about an enormous break between us, “explains Susana Raffalli, nutritionist specializing in safety administration food, in humanitarian emergencies and catastrophe danger, member of the staff of researchers of Cáritas Venezuela.
“I once saw the mistreatment of a woman who drank a water that was for a soup, a Wayuu woman. The mother went and hit the woman because the one bucket of water was to make a soup. That woman took the water because she was thirsty. Then, whenever you associate your most elementary needs to abuse and abandonment, you may be a human being that may grow up with a state of emptiness and restlessness in your entire life and that affective injury that you simply cross to maturity with that gap inside, it goes to generate ceaselessly issues of habit, issues of stability, these are boys who at the moment are insatiable criminals “.
The consequences of malnutrition in youngsters, which Venezuela now suffers, has already been studied in neighboring nations. Raffalli account that in 2012 was revealed a research achieved in a rural population in Guatemala, where the event of an entire group of youngsters, youngsters of malnourished mothers and others not. Once they reached adulthood, they in contrast 20- and 30-year-old farmers, who worked slicing cane, and their performance in chopping the cane was contrasted. The difference was up to 40 % within the amount of cane reduce and, subsequently, the revenue. Vitamin in the first thousand days of life decided that, once adults, some have been 40 % more productive than others. In the case of ladies, they concluded that undernourished women have been 3 times extra probably to provide start to underweight youngsters than those that have been properly nourished of their childhood.
“You’re figuring out, at that moment, what is going to occur next (…). After two years of monitoring this in poor parishes of the country, we see that the expansion retardation went up from 18 % in 2016 to 30 % in 2018; that’s, that 30 % of the youngsters who, even, rescue us from malnutrition and already weigh their normal weight, have progress retardation. They’re youngsters who remain behind ceaselessly, not only organic, but cognitive. These are youngsters that you’ll not see which might be distinguished, you will not even discover. These are youngsters who study to learn, write, play, snigger, go to high school, however they may by no means get to school, they won’t have good productivity jobs, “says Raffalli.
The WHO considers that the proportion of youngsters with stunting shouldn’t exceed five %. Different nations in Latin America managed to scale back their price of youngsters with delayed weight and peak by providing households consuming water, full vaccination, deworming, dispensaries, dietary dietary supplements and household meals rations.
“All in all, the Latin American average of reducing the proportion of youngsters with progress retardation is 1.5 proportion points per yr. So if you already have it in 33 % (like Venezuela), decrease it to 5 % that the WHO considers applicable, it can take you 25 years. 25 or 30 years are three generations “, warns Raffalli. “This even compromises thoughts of freedom in the future. These are youngsters who’re going to be mothers and fathers of poverty, who’re going to vote once more for a populist president. This is perpetuated. This has generational implications, implications endlessly. This implies many years of delay, no less than three generations. “
On September 10, 2018, the UN Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stated that since June, the company has acquired details about deaths associated to malnutrition and preventable illnesses in Venezuela. It was throughout that month, June, when the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Acnudh) examined the Venezuelan food crisis, gathered proof, interviewed specialists and concluded that: “the government refused to recognize the magnitude of the well being and food disaster The measures and regulatory reforms urgently needed to deal with the crisis and its root causes had not been adopted, thus failing to satisfy its worldwide obligation to do the whole lot attainable to make sure the exercise of the rights to health and the fitting to well being. meals, even resorting to worldwide cooperation and help. “
Hunger in Venezuela is clear. The FAO, which in 2013 awarded the government for “halving the percentage and number of people with hunger or undernourishment in the country before 2015”, described Venezuela negatively in 2017, as it is the nation with the very best improve in undernourishment, and blamed it for “the general decline in the performance of the region in its fight against hunger”: more than half of the people who swelled the number of undernourished in Latin America, since 2015, have been Venezuelans. A yr later, in November 2018, the image is even more critical: the FAO's statistics director stated that the typical fee of undernourishment in Venezuela, between 2015 and 2017, was 11.7 % of the population, that’s, 3.7 million Venezuelans eat poorly, virtually four occasions more than in the 2010-2012 triennium. The number of poorly-fed Venezuelans is larger than the population of Uruguay, which, based on its latest census, doesn’t attain three and a half million inhabitants.
For its part, in its newest report on the country, Human Rights Watch warned that “people affected by food insecurity are less likely to comply with their medical treatments because, with limited resources, they must meet various human needs.” In Venezuela, the place 87 % of households are poor, most cannot meet primary needs comparable to meals or well being. Youngsters and fogeys who are sick, malnourished, and in the center of an antagonistic financial context, cannot escape from hunger.
“Malnutrition already seems like an epidemic, a contagious disease,” says Ingrid Soto de Sanabria, pediatrician and nutritionist at the pediatric hospital J.M. from the rivers. Hunger in Venezuela started a troublesome cycle to interrupt.
The Chavez inheritance that Maduro sharpens
Maikel was born on December 29, 2012 in Portuguesa, a place that can also be referred to as the Granero de Venezuela. He was one of the 619,530 youngsters born that yr, the newest delivery fee revealed in the nation. The llanero state, once recognized for its high agricultural production, and the place food is now scarce, is the home of the child, who was born only a day earlier than Nicolás Maduro, then vice chairman of Venezuela, warned on a national tv channel that Hugo Chávez was delicate health, after undergoing surgery to attempt to remedy most cancers he suffered. He was born, additionally, 21 days after Chavez himself went to the nation, on December 8, to ask that, if one thing occurred that may disqualify him, Maduro can be chosen as his successor in energy. “I ask you, from my heart,” he stated. Three months later. On March 5, Maduro announced the demise of Chávez to the nation.
At delivery, Maikel weighed 1,440 kilograms, greater than a kilo under the suitable minimal weight (2,500 kg), in line with WHO; and he was virtually 4 months previous when, on April 14, 2013, as Hugo Chávez requested, Nicolás Maduro was elected president of Venezuela, and he inherited the country, and his economic issues.
In 2002, a decade before Maikel was born, the expropriation of corporations, undertaken by Hugo Chávez, initiated the autumn of the productive capacity of the nation. The oil bonanza that Venezuela skilled from 2004 to 2013 was not exploited to stimulate national manufacturing or to design and implement economic strategies that might maintain the nation secure in occasions of financial recession. The money went to populist policies, including social missions, which strengthened the acceptance of the federal government, but increased public spending by 50.7 %. This strategy was accepted in 2014 by the previous Minister of Planning and Finance Jorge Giordani, who affirmed that it was “crucial to overcome the challenge of October 7, 2012”, referring to the elections that Chávez gained “with an economic and financial effort that led the access and use of assets to extreme levels “.
The worth of oil, and the Venezuelan financial model, dependent on this merchandise, gave the federal government an obvious stability, however the consequences of waste have been evident after the drop in oil prices: State expenditures started to be greater than revenues by export of crude oil and taxes (fiscal deficit), causing a rising inflation and the fall of the buying energy of the Venezuelan. Thus, hunger began to take its first steps. The arrival of Nicolás Maduro to energy in 2013, and his perpetuation of the economic measures initiated by Chávez, represented the deepening of the financial and political disaster: the context of the famine of Venezuelan youngsters.
When Maduro came to energy in 2013, the financial state of affairs in Venezuela was fairly precarious in terms of exterior deficit and imports (…). What did Maduro determine, as an alternative of offering a stabilization plan for the financial system, to resolve this imbalance, to seek worldwide financing? He opted for a policy of constraint. As it had an exterior gap, what it did was to strongly scale back the level of imports from the nation. The last yr of progress of the Venezuelan financial system was the yr 2012, obviously brought on by that fictitious bonanza provided by the federal government of Hugo Chávez, a bit of on the lookout for his re-election. They spent what that they had and what they did not have, there was a brutal financing in phrases of imports and it was the final yr by which the financial system grew. In 2013, the contraction started to develop, first with pretty manageable numbers. We are speaking about contractions that did not exceed 5 %. But, with the passage of time, the level of contraction of the Venezuelan financial system was increasing, “explains Asdrúbal Oliveros, economist (Summa Cum Laude) of the Central College of Venezuela and director of the setting analysis firm Ecoanalítica.
Within the houses of Juan Luis, Valentina, Dayerlin and Maikel there are not any refrigerators or, if there are, they do not work. They do not miss them, as a result of they do not have something to fill them with either. The empty refrigerators, which are reflected within the pronounced cheekbones, uncovered clavicles and skinny palms of Venezuelan youngsters, have been predicted several years earlier than, but the Venezuelan State did not appear to thoughts.
In 2013, the International Financial Fund (IMF) in its annual Perspectives on the world financial system, warned of the detriment of the Venezuelan financial system: “It is expected that the growth of personal consumption in Venezuela will decrease within the brief time period after the current devaluation of the foreign money and the appliance of stricter change controls “. That yr, the Venezuelan Gross Domestic Product fell from 5.5 % to 1.three %, whereas that of Latin America and the Caribbean remained at 2.9 %.
Two years later, as soon as once more, the IMF warned of the potential economic crisis that was looming. In its 2015 annual international report, it said: “Venezuela will endure, in line with forecasts, a deep recession in 2015 and in 2016 (-10% and -6%, respectively) as a result of of the autumn in oil prices that has taken place because the middle of June 2014 has exacerbated domestic macroeconomic imbalances and strain on the stability of payments. It is predicted that Venezuelan inflation can be properly above 100% in 2015. “
The forecast was surpassed by reality. The Venezuelan financial system began a fall of 5 consecutive years, which already reaches 57 %, and has not yet stopped. It is the deepest deterioration a rustic has suffered within the last 50 years, says Oliveros. “As well as, it highlights this fall as a result of it happens in a rustic that doesn’t have a warfare or inner conflict with its neighbors, and has not gone by means of a pure disaster. It is a fall whose sole duty is for the mismanagement of financial policies that has decreased the dimensions of the Venezuelan financial system in a substantial method “.
The years of omissions by the State to the detriment of the financial system, added to the drop in imports, the shortage of nationwide production, closures of corporations, and denial of overseas foreign money for the acquisition of uncooked materials, triggered a critical shortage and inflation, which affected the supply and entry to meals. Without meals or money to buy it, the Venezuelan weight loss plan began to deteriorate.
-Mom, we are hungry! – exclaim, ask, María Victoria and María Verónica.
-I have nothing, let's go to bed. Tomorrow I'll see what I give them, “replies her mother, Dayana, disconsolate. And whereas they obey and sleep, she reveals herself crying.
The twins, five years previous, and their two brothers, sleep hungry most nights. Through the day, additionally they do not eat nicely: their weight loss plan is rice, pasta, flour, sugar and grains, meals distributed by the State in bins that arrive each 15 days within the La Batalla neighborhood of Barquisimeto, Lara state. The household has 5 months without eating meat or hen. The twins, who have been born on January 5, 2013, weigh 14 kilos and measure 1.02 meters, four kilos and six centimeters under the load and peak applicable for his or her age. His analysis is identical as that of Juan Luis, Maikel, Valentina and Dayerlin: they are undernourished, like virtually half of the Venezuelan youngsters of their age. They’re part of the generation marked by the crisis, the generation of hunger.
In its March 2018 report, Cáritas Venezuela concluded that 44 % of Venezuelan youngsters beneath the age of 5 have been undernourished, twice as many as in January 2017. One other 37 % of the youngsters of the identical quantity are undernourished. age, who’re at risk of malnutrition. In March 2018, solely 22 % of Venezuelan youngsters beneath the age of 5 have been adequately fed.
The hunger of the youngsters of this undernourished generation goes hand in hand with the shortage of food. Based on the Venezuelan Observatory of Food Safety, the consumption of meat and poultry in youngsters underneath five years decreased from 41 % to 22 %, between 2016 and 2017; the intake of fish decreased from 24 to 12 %, in the same interval; Dairy consumption fell from 59 to 26 %, and that of eggs – probably the most economic protein – fell from 47 to 29 %.
In accordance with the Venezuelan firm Econometric, the shortage went from 68 % in September 2017 to 83.3 % in 2018. The semi-empty plates are proof of the deterioration of the food plan.
-We didn’t eat nicely before, a lot, but we did eat. Typically hen, caraoticas, rice, pasta with its sauce. Right now, Dayana laments.
On March 7, 2018, the chief director of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), David Beasley, described the food disaster in Venezuela as “catastrophic”. This time, there was no pronouncement by the Venezuelan government, which had just commemorated the fifth anniversary of the dying of Hugo Chávez. Three months earlier, on January 26, UNICEF's warning about baby malnutrition in the nation was additionally disregarded:
“An growing number of youngsters in Venezuela are suffering from malnutrition consequently of the prolonged economic crisis affecting the nation. Although exact figures aren’t out there because of restricted official knowledge on health and vitamin, there are clear indications that the disaster is limiting youngsters's access to high quality well being providers, medicines and food. The youngsters's agency is looking for the implementation of a fast response in the brief term towards malnutrition. “
Though the concern of worldwide organizations is current, malnutrition just isn’t, says Marianella Herrera, nutritionist at the Middle for Improvement Research of the Central College of Venezuela, director of the Bengoa Basis, and a member of the analysis group of the Latin American Vitamin Society : “This has extra time than it seems. Particularly, I keep in mind that we did an investigation when there was the Mercal Mission, in Caracas. What we discovered is that there was an in depth relationship between being overweight, purchasing in Mercal and belonging to a house with food insecurity. Weight problems is hidden hunger. The program provided cheaper products, however poor in vitamins (…). If we see it in time, this disaster begins across the yr 2011, 2012. It was a sluggish meals insecurity crisis, which is why it has been very troublesome to convince the world. It started with weight problems, and then, when the energy ran out, this drastic change occurred. “
Hunger and the fall of the financial system go hand in hand, says Herrera. “When the State ensures an honest revenue, it guarantees the acquisition of primary needs. Meals is one of those. The disaster of national manufacturing, brought on by the regulation of expropriation of land, brought about the decline of local products (…). The radicalization of the socialist mannequin triggered the financial structure to be lost “.
Carlos's mother isn’t an skilled in economics or socialist models, she barely spells her identify with problem. But, this does not have to know that their youngsters don’t eat properly. With 22 years previous and mother of four youngsters, she should keep at house to take care of them, whereas the daddy works. What the husband earns is simply to buy some carbohydrate, similar to pasta or rice, and some cheese, hen or sardines. By no means every thing, by no means enough.
It isn’t the only household that suffers from these circumstances. In accordance with Encovi, in 2017, 89 % of Venezuelan households, comparable to Carlos' house, didn’t have the cash they wanted to purchase meals. Although the State does not supply official figures on revenue poverty for four years, the info out there in the National Institute of Statistics confirms that between 2012, the final yr of Hugo Chavez's term, and 2014, the yr of the final revealed report, Poor households increased from 21.2 to 33.1 %.
The improve in poverty doesn’t cease. “The food basket for the month of August, annualized, between August 2017 and August 2018, introduced an inflation of 57,978.9 %. For the primary time, this country is experiencing a problem of hyperinflation. For 21 years, between 1951 and 1971, Venezuela had an inflation price of 1.5 % per yr, presently we’ve got an inflation of 2.4 % per day, “says Oscar Meza, economist and director of the Social Analysis Documentation Middle (Cendas).
The group, based 41 years in the past, contrasts, monthly, the Venezuelan minimal wage with the fee of the Food Basket, to guage its protection. Between 2008 and 2013 (at the finish of the yr), the minimal wage went from masking 53 % of the food basket to 46 %. It differs from the calculation of the federal government: in line with the fee of the Food Basket revealed by the INE, with the minimum wage might cowl 91 and 89 % of the required food, respectively. For 2014, Cendas pointed out that protection of the Meals Basket was barely 28 %, and on the finish of 2017, with the minimal wage, only 2 % of the meals might be bought. On this similar period, the State didn’t publish the fee of the Meals Basket.
The Venezuelan was left with out meals, and without money to purchase the little and costly food obtainable.
The place of Unicef Venezuela relating to the causes of youngster undernutrition, evidenced by non-governmental organizations, is neutral. This entity adheres to official figures, offered by the State. Nevertheless, Dagoberto Rivera, vitamin and health specialist at Unicef Venezuela, admits that the shortage of buying power is a component of the causes of malnutrition, though he warns that it isn’t the only one.
“When costs rise and the buying power decreases, the likelihood of having access to a whole basket is restricted. This impacts all ranges of the household. Specifying how much has declined can be dangerous, but sure, we’ve got the indicators we learn by means of partial studies, which point out that there is a deterioration and a bent in the direction of deterioration, and that’s the reason we’re doing intervention. We are on the lookout for collaboration, and specifying collaboration, not solely with the non-governmental sector, but in addition with government institutions, specifically with the Nationwide Institute of Vitamin. We are supporting an intervention to provide micronutrients and a few further vitamin inputs within the dietary recovery centers, and in common, common Unicef packages. This can be a actuality that we are experiencing, brought on by this example of excessive costs and lowered purchasing energy, which we need to change “.
That’s the reality that Juan Luis lives in the Delta, Maikel in Los Llanos, Dayerlin within the east, the twins María Victoria and María Verónica within the middle, Carlos within the south, Valentina in the Metropolitan Area: the truth of a whole nation, to which the correspondents of El Pitazo approached on this investigation, in alliance with CONNECTAS.
The state does not like to talk about hunger
Jhender would have been five years previous on September 20, 2018, however he died consequently of hunger, virtually six months earlier, on April 7. The boy died at daybreak, in the identical hospital where 5 years before Hugo Chávez died. That precinct, where the president was held throughout his final days of life, did not have the required supplies to cope with the bacterial an infection suffered by the kid's digestive system, aggravated by malnutrition. Jhender went, thus, to combine an unknown statistic.
In Venezuela, the silence of the State is overwhelming. The Epidemiological Bulletins of the Ministry of Well being, from July 2015 to December 2016, revealed one yr late, in Might 2017. The Morbidity Yearbook doesn’t publish since 2015, when the final report of 2013 was revealed. The final Report and MinSalud Account revealed was that of 2015; these of 2016 and 2017 haven’t been disclosed.
El ministerio de alimentación no publica las Hojas de Stability de Alimentos desde el año 2007, ni el Anuario del Sistema de Vigilancia Alimentaria y Nutricional desde 2008. El Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, adscrito al Ministerio del Despacho de la Presidencia, no difunde la Encuesta Nacional de Seguimiento al Consumo de Alimentos desde 2015. Y el Anuario de Mortalidad, al que debería pertenecer Jhender, tienen cuatro años de retrasos: la edición de 2014 publicó en agosto de 2018.
“Lamentablemente, las cifras en Venezuela no se publican desde hace cuatro años aproximadamente. Hay un panorama bastante oscuro sobre las estadísticas. El Estado venezolano considera la información como un arma política y no las divulga, y esto ocasiona que toda la planificación y organización de políticas públicas se dificulte porque para los investigadores es vital saber dónde estamos parados para planificar a futuro”, señala Pablo Hernández, nutricionista del Observatorio Venezolano de la Salud.
El Estado tampoco da cifras sobre malnutrición y mortalidad infantil a Unicef desde hace una década, de acuerdo a las bases de datos difundidas en el Informe Mundial de la Infancia de este organismo.
Organizaciones civiles nacionales, como Cáritas Venezuela, Fundación Bengoa y Provea, y equipos de investigación de universidades venezolanas, han buscado mecanismos para indagar y mostrar resultados sobre desnutrición. Sin embargo, la irregularidad en el registro de las muertes de niños dificulta la generación de knowledge sobre mortalidad. “Hemos recibido denuncias de los médicos que comentan que no se les permite colocar la desnutrición como causa de muerte en el acta de defunción de los pacientes, pese a que la desnutrición puede estar asociada a una enfermedad de tipo infecciosa, generalmente. Es lamentable porque las cifras de desnutrición tienen que formar parte de las estadísticas y en el último boletín epidemiológico de 2016, publicado en 2017, no aparecen la mortalidad por desnutrición, especialmente en menores de cinco años”, señala Hernández.
El Anuario de Mortalidad de Venezuela de 2014 (publicado en 2018) registró que 153 niños, menores de 5 años, murieron por hambre; cinco niños más que en 2013, cuando murieron 148 niños. El mayor incremento de defunciones ocurrió en los niños menores de un año: entre 2013 y 2016, la muerte de bebés aumentó 28 por ciento, de acuerdo a los Boletines Epidemiológicos del Estado. Aunque no existe knowledge oficial, concreta y actualizada, sobre el hambre y las muertes de los niños generadas por ésta, desde hace varios años Unicef mide y proyecta estadísticas sobre registros viejos del Estado, y apunta que Venezuela tiene una mortalidad estable de niños menores de 5 años, que se sitúa en 17 por ciento, incluso por debajo del promedio de América Latina y el Caribe (21 por ciento). La cifra es irreal, porque se basa en datos desactualizados.
La falta de cifras de mortalidad infantil no es la única irregularidad del Estado venezolano. El método utilizado para medir la desnutrición —de la que tampoco hay cifras oficiales— está obsoleto, respecto al usado por el resto de la región.
En 2006, tras un estudio multicéntrico hecho en los cinco continentes, la OMS generó y estableció nuevos patrones de referencia de niños bien nutridos. El patrón de los años 70 y 90 señalaba que un niño estaba desnutrido cuando su peso estaba tres veces por debajo de lo que debería pesar, y que estaba desnutrido agudo, severo, cuando se desviaba cuatro veces del patrón. En cambio, el patrón aprobado en 2006 corrió el punto de corte. A partir de estos patrones, la cuentas sanitarias de los países pueden asegurar que un niño está gravemente desnutrido si está dos medidas por debajo del peso o de la estatura ultimate para su edad.
“Cuando tú mides a 600 niños aquí, y comparas sus mediciones con los patrones obsoletos, resulta que te pueden dar 48 niños desnutridos porque resulta que esperas que estén muy severamente desnutridos para empezar a contarlo, para que ese niño tenga un peso en las cuentas públicas sanitarias de un país. Mientras que con el patrón del 2006 puede ser que los cuentes y te vayan a resultar no 48, sino 78 u 80 niños desnutridos. Entonces la diferencia es que con los patrones obsoletos te dan menos niños desnutridos”, explica la nutricionista Susana Raffalli, a cargo del informe Saman de Cáritas Venezuela.
“Desde que se aprobaron esos patrones de 2006, casi todos los países los asumieron como sus patrones para evaluar a su población infantil y Venezuela es de los pocos estados en los que eso no se ha asumido. Los formatos que el Instituto Nacional de Nutrición deja para captar la información en los centros de salud siguen con los puntos de corte de los patrones pasados, que se resume a esperar que un niño esté gravemente desnutrido para que cuente dentro de las cuentas nacionales de la desnutrición. Y esto es gravísimo porque la desnutrición es uno de los indicadores que se usa por excelencia para asumir y reconocer que hay una emergencia de salud pública en un país. Entonces, pudiera ser que tengas que esperar que el niño se desvíe cuatro veces de lo que debería pesar y ya esté en el pellejo, que lo tengas que hospitalizar, para entonces decir que hay una emergencia de salud pública”, advierte.
—¿Cómo lo mando al colegio con hambre? ¿Cómo va a entender lo que le explican si no se está alimentando? ¿Cómo va a entender, si tiene hambre?—, se pregunta desesperada Katiuska, tía de Alexander. Viven en el estado Zulia, al occidente de Venezuela, en la tierra donde la bonanza de la explotación de crudo le dio al país opciones de crecimiento y desarrollo, pero que hoy tiene al municipio más pobre del país: Guajira. En su casa, un rancho de zinc, viven hacinados 11 niños y 12 adultos. La preocupación de Katiuska está bien fundamentada, aunque para ella sea solo una sospecha.
En Venezuela, la falta de cifras oficiales no se limitan solo a las mediciones antropométricas de los niños (cuánta pesa, cuánto mide y la circunferencia del brazo izquierdo). De acuerdo al Informe Mundial de la Niñez, desde 2008, Venezuela no registra el alcance de la cobertura de vitamina A, tampoco el consumo de sal yodada. La carencia de estos minerales es la principal causa de la desnutrición por micronutrientes, razón por la que en el país se decretó la yodación de la sal en 1993, y la fortificación de la harina de maíz con vitamina A en 1994. Hoy, esos decretos siguen vigentes, pero de nada sirven ante un país con hambre.
Uno de los principales síntomas de la carencia de yodo es el bocio, una enfermedad tiroidea que estaba erradicada en el país desde hace más de 30 años, y que reapareció sin que las autoridades tomen medidas al respecto. Desde 2017, el estado Portuguesa ha registrado un incremento de casos de esta enfermedad y, aunque no existen estudios que lo certifiquen, la reaparición de la afección podría evidenciar irregularidades en la cobertura de este micronutriente, afirma el doctor Gerardo Rojas, endocrinólogo y actual presidente de la Sociedad Venezolana de Endocrinología, capítulo centro-occidental.
“Para el año 2017, la cifra en Portuguesa asciende a tres mil casos. Quisimos hacer una mesa de trabajo, pero nunca pasó de una reunión, porque a nivel central la Gobernación de Portuguesa no permitió avanzar más. Se tomaron biopsias en unos casos, y en otros se hicieron estudios de laboratorios. Sin embargo, debido a los altos costos de los exámenes, estas muestras no fueron procesadas todas y hay unas que están congeladas, aparentemente. No tenemos certeza de cuál fue el resultado, lo que se dijo fue que (el bocio) era carencial, es decir, que el brote estaba asociado a la falta de yodo. Actualmente, y entre muchas teorías, se asume que está asociado al déficit de alimentos, por la falta de proteínas, como la carne y el pollo, en la dieta diaria, y al uso aumentado de alimentos bocígenos, como la yuca, y el resto de los tubérculos. Hace muchos años, en Venezuela, todas las sales se yodaron precisamente para evitar este trastorno. El problema es que ni siquiera hay sal en el país. Algo tan común como la sal, ahora es muy difícil de conseguir, y algunas sales vienen de fuera y no están yodadas”.
Esta carencia de yodo, evidenciada por la reaparición del bocio, marca de forma irreversible a esta generación de niños con hambre. No consumir yodo causa lesiones cerebrales durante la infancia. Sus efectos más devastadores incluyen la alteración del desarrollo cognitivo y motor que influye en el rendimiento escolar del niño, y la pérdida de hasta 15 puntos en el coeficiente intelectual. En su edad adulta, serán menos productivos y, por lo tanto, tendrán menos capacidad de encontrar empleo. Les será más difícil generar ingresos para sus familias, comprar los alimentos que necesitan, estar bien nutridos, vivir bien: romper el despiadado ciclo del hambre.
El hambre de los niños venezolanos también está asociado a la corrupción. Los alimentos foráneos, comprados por el Estado para distribuirlos a través de las cajas Clap (los Comités Locales de Abastecimiento y Producción) —y cuya compra está vinculada a grupos económicos cercanos al presidente, según una investigación del medio native Armando.Information— podrían ser la causa, también, de las carencias de vitamina A. Tampoco hay estudios ni cifras oficiales que muestren un panorama sobre la cobertura de este micronutriente en los últimos años, pero su déficit se hace evidente en la decoloración del cabello, afirma la nutricionista Marianella Herrera, quien explica que la harina precocida venezolana está enriquecida con vitamina A, pero que no se tiene garantías de la fortificación de las marcas importadas por el gobierno. Además de la decoloración del cabello, también conocida como síndrome de la bandera, la deficiencia de vitamina A debilita el sistema inmunológico, aumenta el riesgo de que el niño contraiga infecciones como el sarampión y enfermedades diarreicas, afecta la salud de la piel y, en extremo, puede provocar ceguera. “En Venezuela estamos viendo esta alteración de la coloración del cabello (…). Esto ya ocurrió en Cuba durante el período especial, cuando muchas personas quedaron ciegas”.
Aquellos mechones castaños, un poco más claros que el resto, que se ven en las cabezas de las gemelas larenses María Verónica y María Victoria, podrían evidenciar entonces que, además de peso y talla, ambas están también desnutridas por falta de micronutrientes. Si es así, podría significar, también, que sus sistemas inmunes son y serán más débiles que el de otros niños de su edad. Pero, aunque el daño a su salud se detenga, su futuro es casi una certeza: los daños provocados por el hambre son irreversibles.
En su libro Destrucción masiva, Jean Ziegler, ex relator de la ONU para el Derecho a la Alimentación, sostiene que el hambre y sus responsables asesinan en medio de la abundancia:
“Cada cinco segundos, un chico de menos de diez años se muere de hambre, en un planeta que, sin embargo, rebosa de riquezas. En su estado actual, en efecto, la agricultura mundial podría alimentar sin problemas a 12.000 millones de seres humanos, casi dos veces la población actual. Así que no es una fatalidad. Un chico que se muere de hambre es un chico asesinado”.
Desde 2004 hasta 2013 —año en el que nacieron Juan Luis, Maikel, María Victoria y María Verónica, Carlos, Dayerlin, Valentina, Alexander y Jhender— Venezuela vivió la mayor bonanza petrolera de toda su historia. Pero el Estado no destinó los recursos necesarios para protegerlos de la miseria. Ahora, el gobierno de Maduro niega la existencia de la emergencia humanitaria y no acepta la ayuda ofrecida por la región. En cambio, su falta de acción garantiza que estos niños, y miles más de su edad, crecerán en desventaja, serán adultos enfermos, y padecerán toda su vida las consecuencias del hambre a la que fueron sometidos por la irresponsabilidad gubernamental. Pero Jhender, el niño que murió de hambre, no pudo siquiera averiguar qué sería de su vida. Reposa en una tumba sin lápida, en un cementerio pobre de una comunidad pobre, como lo fue su hogar desde el día que nació hasta el día que murió, o fue asesinado, de hambre.