>> Deep inside a Venezuelan slum, Erica Torres rocks her three month old son to soothe his constant crying. Jesus was diagnosed with microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small heads and serious developmental problems. After his mother contracted what was probably the mosquito-borne Zika virus during her pregnancy in the poor central city of Guarenas.
But according to the government of Nicolas Maduro, microcephaly does not exist in Venezuela. Reuters correspondent Alexandra Ulmer is in Caracas.>> Venezuela has not issued any data about microcephaly in the country. That stands in contrast to native Brazil and Colombia, where the governments issue weekly bulletins on Zika.
Doctors here in Venezuela are accusing the government of trying to hide the severity of the Zika virus. They're calling for foreign aid and a stronger stance from the World Health Organization. Doctors accuse the government of not wanting to acknowledge that the country's healthcare sector, in general, is in a tailspin.
But in the meantime, families are feeling the squeeze.>> Having a child with microcephaly is difficult under any circumstances. But it is particularly tricky here in Venezuela. The country's going through a major economic crisis that has food and medicine running short, and triple-digit inflation that eats into wages.
The mothers we've spoken to say they're struggling to clothe and feed their newborns, let alone pay for tests or therapies that are crucial to try to counter microcephaly. Venezuela's economic crisis has also made it difficult for women to protect against Zika. Contraceptives, for instance, are running short, which increases the chances of unwanted pregnancies.
It's also hard to find simple things like bug spray or mosquito nets.>> Reuters interviewed physicians at several health centers across Venezuela, who suggest there are dozens of newborns with confirmed or suspected cases of Zika-linked microcephaly. Venezuela's health ministry did not respond to multiple requests for comment.