Cologne / Amman / Cairo / Geneva - So far, 36 children in Syria have been paralyzed by polio. 25 of them come from the Deir Ez Zour district, five from Aleppo, three from Idlib, two as Al-Hassakeh and one from Hama. This is documented in new report by the Children's Fund and the (WHO) on polio in the Middle East. Both organizations primarily blame the crisis in Syria for the outbreak of polio. Only every second Syrian child is protected there because no routine vaccinations have taken place since 2011.
An estimated 60 percent of the hospitals are destroyed or badly damaged and only every third ambulance is still functional. The supply of vaccines and the cold chain are often interrupted. “Polio has returned to Syria and is exacerbating the humanitarian tragedy. We had to react with very limited resources to the long-forgotten danger in the region - virus that knows no borders or checkpoints and infects not only children in Syria, but in the entire region at great speed, ”explains Chris Maher from WHO.
Despite Despite all adversities, WHO and Unicef were able to complete the first phase of polio vaccination campaign in the Middle East. Unicef has vaccinated 2.9 million children against polio in Syria in the past few months. However, around 765,000 children under the age of five were wholly or partially excluded from contested areas in Syria. A total of 25 million children in seven countries - Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Turkey - received an oral vaccination against polio.
The mass vaccination campaign had become necessary after last fall first time. “But the work is far from over. In the coming months we urgently need to reach more children in disputed areas in Syria and Iraq, ”said Maria Calivis, Unicef Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.