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The WSJ declares Venezuela worse than Syria


The Wall Street Journal just published an article with the headline

INFANT MORTALITY SOARS IN VENEZUELA

WITH HOSPITALS SUFFERING A CATASTROPHIC LACK OF SUPPLIES, THE COUNTRY’S BABIES ARE DYING AT A RATE HIGHER THAN SYRIA’S

The article reported

Venezuela’s overall infant mortality rate—defined as deaths within the first year of life—is currently 18.6 per 1,000 live births, according to the most recent government statistics. That is well beyond the upper range of 15.4 Unicef estimates for war-torn Syria.

The Wall Street looked at UNICEF 2015 data but somehow missed the fact that UNICEF has estimates for Venezuela, not just Syria, and indeed for most countries in the world. The chart below shows UNICEF’s midpoint (i.e. median and therefore most probable) estimates for selected countries and regions since 2011. The WSJ appears to have taken data for state hospitals in Venezuela, where less than half of all births took place in 2015, and extrapolated to the entire country.

unicef

According to UNICEF, Syria, despite the war that has been raging since 2011, continues to have an infant mortality rate that is much better than Venezuela’s. However, the rate of infant mortality in Syria is still much better, according to UNICEF, than it is in most of Latin America and the Caribbean. UNICEF’s midpoint estimate for the region is 15.2 compared to 11.2 for Syria. It is unsurprising that the WSJ would “miss” that as well. They’ve done this kind of dishonest cherry picking in the past.

I should add that I doubt UNICEF’s estimates – including the uncertainty bounds – are very accurate for Syria. Unlike Venezuelans, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the country to live in refugee camps in neighboring countries. Millions of Syrians have been displaced internally. It has the second largest internally displaced population in the world – slightly behind Colombia – according to the latest UNHCR figures. For very similar reasons, I doubt UNICEF’s figures for Colombia are as accurate as claimed. Colombia, like Syria, has hundreds of thousands for people living as refugees in neighboring countries according to the UNHCR.

Nevertheless, even if you fully account for inaccuracy in UNICEF numbers for war torn countries like Colombia and Syria, it is undeniable that poverty is much bigger killer than bombs and guns. An honest WSJ headline would have read.

POVERTY MORE LETHAL IN WESTERN HEMISPHERE THAN SYRIA’S CIVIL WAR 

If Latin America and the Caribbean had as low a child mortality rate as Cuba, there would have been 135,941 fewer child deaths in 2015 alone.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Paul D October 27, 2016 6:14 pm 

    Or, when looking at the remarkably low infant mortality rate of Cuba – substantially lower than the USA and all of Latin America -and even a bit lower than Canada, then an alternative headline might be “CAPITALISM MORE LETHAL IN WESTERN HEMISPHERE THAN SYRIA’S CIVIL WAR”

    Oh, for the day we will read THAT on the WSJ!

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