EFECaracas

Food shortages in Venezuela have spurred an increase in child malnutrition, according to Livia Machado, a spokesperson for the association of pediatricians.

Even hospitals and schools are affected, she said.

The situation is reflected in the plight of Rosibel Martinez, whose five children range in age from 7 months to 14 years.

Baby Dilan, who weighed just 2.5 kilos (5.5 lbs.) at birth, has lost 2.8 kilos (6 lbs.) in the last month due to malnutrition.

Rosibel, a single mother of 37, breast-fed her son for the first four months, but had to go back to work to support her brood. She told EFE that she has found it impossible to secure a reliable supply of infant formula, forcing her to feed Dilan on water mixed with cornstarch and soups.

Often, the baby has to go without protein for extended periods because of the high cost of meat and chicken.

Last Friday, Dilan was admitted to Domingo Luciani Hospital suffering from diarrhea and dehydration and weighing only 5 kilos (11 lbs.).

One of the doctors, who declined to give his full name for fear of reprisals, told EFE that Dilan's illness due to the "absence of protein."

Venezuela's foremost pediatric hospital, JM de Los Rios, relies on donations from the U.S. and Spain to maintain an adequate supply of infant formula.