>> A school photo hangs by the kitchen of Jennifer Vivas's late daughter Eliannys. The nine year old Venezuelan girl died last month from diphtheria, a rare but serious bacterial infection, particularly deadly for children.>>
> This is not easy, this is not easy. I wake up and I don't see her.
>> Immunizations have made dying from diphtheria increasingly rare. But Eliannys' death and the wider outbreak in Venezuela show how vulnerable the crisis-wrought country is to health risks. Reuters' correspondent Alexandra Ulmer is in Puerto Urdas.>> Doctors in Venezuela say the economic crisis had a big impact on the spread of diphtheria.
First of all, many men are unable to find lucrative jobs in the area and so go to illegal gold mines nearby, where they are more exposed to disease. Second of all, the harsh recession, we're in our fourth year here, has led many people to live in unsanitary conditions without basics like soap or running water.
And, in addition, vaccine coverage has slacked in the area according to doctors. The economic crisis also makes it more difficult to treat patients with bacterial infections like diphtheria. Even things like penicillin are lacking nation-wide.>> Government secrecy around health problems is also fueling its spread. The unpopular leftist government of Nicolas Maduro said in October there were no proven cases of diphtheria.
It has since informed the World Health Organization of 20 confirmed cases and five deaths. But with shortages of basic drugs and vaccines Venezuela's doctors are bracing for more illnesses and deaths from diphtheria and other treatable diseases like malaria, pneumonia and tuberculosis.