765,000 Syrian children living in hard to reach areas wait for polio vaccine

CENEVRE (CIHAN)- The United Nations needs “regular access” to vaccinate 765,000 Syrian children living in hard to reach places against polio in a bid to stop the disease spreading further in the country, according to a report released today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.

In October 2013, the first case of polio in Syria since 1999 was reported. There are now 38 confirmed cases of polio in the Middle East, with 36 of those inside Syria, most of them in Deir Ez Zour.

WHO and UNICEF say that the first phase of the biggest polio vaccination campaign ever undertaken in the Middle East has now been completed, with 25 million children under the age of five having been reached in seven countries. Further polio immunization campaigns will be repeated across the region.

In Syria, further vaccination will take place in parts of the country in August 2014 and there will be two national mass polio campaigns in October and November of this year.
Juliette Touma, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa in Amman, said that safe, unhindered access is needed to reach all children.

According to the report, polio vaccination coverage in Syria has dramatically fallen since the start of the conflict – from 99% before fighting began in March 2011 to just 52% in 2012. Many factors are to blame, including disruption of routine immunization programmes, severe damage to Syria’s health systems and continuous movement of the population to escape the conflict. In addition, vaccination supplies and equipment to store it in have been lost, damaged or completely put out of action.