Don't Help: On the Food Crisis and the Irresponsible Media

Caritas Venezuela is doing serious work – and irresponsible journalists set it all back with false and alarmist headlines.

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.

Astrid Cantor

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.