Fifty years ago, Venezuela was considered one of the main countries of South America in the fight against malaria. Although it was not completely eradicated, the efforts served to drastically reduce the number of cases in the country during the following decades. However, in recent years the epidemic has returned strongly. In fact, in 2019, the country was declared the most affected in Latin America by this disease, with more than 320,000 cases diagnosed.
The most affected state is Bolívar, the largest in the country. There, illegal gold mining has been bidding for years and yellow metal has become a motivation for many Venezuelans to head south, as a last chance to make a living before returning home or fleeing to Brazil. .
“Here we pay everything in gold. For example, the mosquito net I use when I sleep in my hammock cost me 0.8 grams of gold. It was quite expensive, but I bought it because malaria is a pest in this area. As soon as you leave your mosquito net, a mosquito bites you. Everyone has had malaria around here. However, I am not too worried, even when one of us gets sick. I have had malaria 40 times and my little brother about 10 times. My mother, my daughter and my nephew too. They have had it many times. That is normal for us. We only try to prevent it when we can and treat it when it gives us”.
“We have sometimes had about 200 people queuing in front of the diagnostic points, many of them infected with malaria, and not having enough treatments available, to a situation that is now a little more manageable,” he explains. Monserrat Barrios, a laboratory specialist of Doctors Without Borders who is in charge of training new technicians to carry out the diagnosis. But medical needs go far beyond the state of Bolívar. The serious economic and political crisis in Venezuela has deeply impacted the health system in general and is felt almost everywhere in the country”