As Venezuela faces a dramatic food crisis, click-hungry journalists are spreading disinformation and confusion to build an audience over the suffering of others.

Susana Raffalli, an external consultant for Caritas de Venezuela, met with journalists this week to offer some insight on the escalating Venezuelan food crisis. ABC produced this misleading and irresponsible piece, distorting her message. The piece was published and picked up (meaning copy-pasted) on pretty much every Venezuelannewsoutlet.

300,000 children at risk of dying from malnutrition? The headline set off alarms for everyone familiar with Caritas. So we checked the August Caritas Bulletin to get some answers.

The methodology is clear and upfront. The Bulletin is based on a sample that is not representative of the country. Caritas monitors the most vulnerable parishes only.

Yes, the Bulletin reports that 15% of the population covered in the study is in global acute malnutrition and 33% are at risk of malnutrition.

There is no need for sensationalism, the numbers are pretty bad on their own. Caritas’ findings are serious, but they do not mean that 15% of Venezuelan children face global acute malnutrition, much less death of starvation. 64% of homes represented in the report resorted to food privation as a strategy to cope with the food crisis and 85% doesn’t have the right dietary diversity intake.

Raffalli cleared the air on her Twitter account:

Since the last time the Health Minister published an official Epidemiologic Bulletin she got removed from office, the dearth of official information on public health matters has become profound.

Getting yearly nationwide data would be easy: rural doctors across the country measure children’s nutritional status on a program called “Salud va a la escuela”. The only reason we don’t have official numbers is because the regime doesn’t want us to.

In this context, it becomes even more important for the media to get it right. There’s just no excuse for sloppy reporting on such a sensitive subject.

People are struggling to eat, and it’s affecting the most vulnerable: children. We must address the issue responsibly. It’s on us to get it right if we hope to hold this government accountable.

As it should.

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Head of the Church of Martha Stewart: I bake therefore I am. Táchirense: Almojabana and quesadilla lover, “toche” and “juemadre” user. Pastelitos de queso con bocadillo fanatic and overall gochadas supporter. Also doctor —as in proper MD— and pobresora universitaria too.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Aprecio mucho esta nota. Especialmente por resaltar lo asombros que resulta que, ninguno de los medios que replicaron la información distorsionada, verificaran primero las redes de Caritas o las mías. Las consecuencias de esto fueron masivas en un momento en el que, lo que menos necesitamos es que nos minen el camino, nos desacrediten con actores clave con los que hay trabajar para salvar vidas de venezolanos, y conviertan el hambre en noticia, mas que en racimo de resultados efectivos, como bien sabe y pueden hacerlo los medios. Contamos con ustedes, con todos los medios. Gracias Astrid y equipo

  2. El encuentro con periodistas no fue una rueda de prensa y yo no soy Directora de Caritas, eso son dos aclaraciones importantes. Soy una asesora externa. Gracias otra vez

  3. The complaint here is that the media misreported the Caritas limited survey, exaggerating the numbers by inferring that they represent the entire general population. This could result in damaging Caritas’ image when the real numbers are released or found, making it seem as if it was Caritas that exaggerated. Did I read / interpret this correctly? (I hate to sound stupid if, but I have the virtue of always being unhappy to admit it.)

  4. I would expect the numbers to be higher.
    Malnutrition negatively impacts the immune system. Children may die of diseases that their bodies would have been able to fight off if they had a robust immune system.
    The numbers really don’t matter.
    One malnourished child is one too many.

  5. I personally welcome any intl. news focusing a spotlight on Venezuela, exaggerated, or not (and, it’s not easy to over-exaggerate the Venezuelan situation)….

    • I agree with this. If the figures are distorted, well, the real ones would reflect the truth and it is serious the same. I don’t think Charitas has nothing to fear here. If they are acussed of misleading the reporters, is it as easy as showing them the real numbers and being clear that this was not the intention or something they had a way to control, I mean how the news outlets were to give the information to the public.

  6. I agree with Dr Kantor about the need for factual information about food availability. It is difficult to imagine a starving population voting 54% for the party in power but less so if in fact the food situation is less severe. So, CC, I assume you are saying that the population is not starving but that there are pockets of undernourishment. Is that your point?

      • I keep asking because I genuinely cannot understand the outcome and the discordant explanations but very few other people seem to care. I can sort of sense that a Venezuelan might conclude that the outcome us just more bad news but I cannot believe that significant outside financial intervention can be justified if its purpose is to oust a political party that a majority support at the polls.

        • “….I cannot believe that significant outside financial intervention can be justified if its purpose is to oust a political party that a majority support at the polls.”

          Now there you go again with your mischief, Mr. Crispin.

          That is, of course, as you said elsewhere, the 800 lb gorilla, (or guerilla as you cleverly used the a play on words), in the room. I’d be more inclined to describe it as the rotting corpse of an elephant in the corner that no one here seems to notice, but that’s just symantics.

          ActuaIly, I might even consider taking it a step further and ask why anyone even bothers with this site? If it’s true that our concerns are with the well-being of the Venezuelan people, then they’ve spoken clearly and have expressed their overwhelming support of the constitutionally-elected president, Nicolas Maduro.

          In the end, as Maduro suggests, is not we, those of us who support financial intervention, bringing about the suffering of the Venezuelan people?

          • I actually think CC is quite valuable but it does confound me and there is a lot of back and forth here that an outsider just cannot put into context save for the fact that a lot of folks love Venezuela in different ways

    • no that is not their point. CC is “Fact” based. Damn the logic, it is facts, facts, facts only.

      and since Maduro has stopped all government reporting on crime, malnutrition, maternal deaths, disease, malaria, etc, and of course all financial data and has left NGO’s and outside groups to piece together as best they can the data (and then extrapolate for the population as a whole), there ARE NO FACTS.

      So the CC staff, instead zeros in on what can be audited. Those who report the unreportable.

      ALL IS WELL IN VENEZUELA.

    • If I finger select a population of 10 people and then 8 of those 10 turn out to be dumb, do you think is right for me to say 80% of worldwide population is dumb? Because then, it would be logic for me to say there’s a 8:10 chance you’re dumb, I guess from your point of view that makes perfect sense.

      Sorry about posting facts facts facts, seriously, how annoying are we.

      • Oh my, Astrid (Ostrich) head in sand.

        I never said ignore facts. My point is that CC ignores logic.

        “Dumb” is subjective which is probably why you used it as your example.

        If 8 of 10 Bananas picked have Panama disease, you damn well know that you do not need to test any further – the whole population needs to be destroyed.

        Maybe a better analogy for you are TV ratings.

        Did you know that the billon dollar TV industry works off of polling.

        Nielson a rating company for decades polls 3000 (yes 3000 of 300,000,000 Population), and from this extrapolates the viewship of a nation.

        So when every report out of Venezuela tells a story of weight loss, lack of medicine, women in labor on benches, etc etc etc. and the government reports as fact the complete opposite, and the NGOs who DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO 1/100 of the data reports the situation is bad, and the news media runs with it, that it worst than bad.

        And CC reports that the media is exaggerating the figures.

        I think most people use logic and conclude that the FACTS as reported
        are incomplete.

          • In another life I sold technical data and services to clients all over the world. If I received reports from those clients that either my data was questionable or my services were lagging behind those of my competitors, I took those reports very seriously. Can’t say I ever considered one of my clients dumb for his comments about the quality of my product.

            You guys might try that approach.

          • Astrid, I have no connection to Venezuela. None, Nada, Zero, Zip.

            As your Venezuelan house burns, and 90% of the commenters here are calling the fire dept and grabbing buckets of water in a desperate attempt to save the nation, you are outside calculating the response time.
            Go Girl

        • I can’t let this comment go by. Have you heard of representation? If those 10 bananas were selected at random and are able to represent (statistically) all the banana population in the country, THEN you can say that if 8/10 bananas have panama disease everyone leave. BUT, if you picked bananas only from one specific region, or from a specific tree, or etc etc etc. that means that they don’t represent the whole country.

          And that’s Astrid’s and Susana’s point! The sample (where they did their research) was only done in specific areas (the poorest parishes) and did not try to represent the whole country. That’s why the results of this research cannot be used for the entire country.

          I’d agree with you, 3000 for TV ratings is really low, HOWEVER you’d have to look at Neilsen’s methodology and ensure that it is statistically sound. Susana’s research did NOT try to do that, they are just looking at these poorest parishes and giving results for these poorest parishes only, hence why these numbers shouldn’t be framed as the whole country dealing with these results.

      • An old saying that has served me well over the years:

        “There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics.”

  7. I am for one, thankful to any news outlet that brings attention to Venezuela’s plight.
    Do I care if the figure or statistic is not “exact”? Is being precise/accurate whats at stake?
    The real figures, reflecting kids brain nourishment deficiencies could be much, much higher than those reported and make no mistake, that will be devastating.
    The question for every Venezuelan: For how long is this going to be tolerated?

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