Millions of children to be vaccinated against polio in the Middle East

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Polio vaccination (WHO@PHOTO)

Over 20 million children in seven countries and territories in the Middle East are to be  vaccinated against polio following an outbreak in Syria.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are leading the vaccination campaign.

An outbreak of polio in parts of north eastern Syria has left 10 children paralyzed.

WHO says the Middle East region has not had polio for nearly a decade, but in the last 12 months poliovirus has been detected in sewage samples from Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sona Bari is a spokesperson for WHO in Geneva.

"The countries involved in this range from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon the West bank and the Gaza strip, Syria and Turkey. The total number of children is about 22 million. This is a sustained six months effort, there will be repeated campaigns over this period of time. Its going to be quite an intense period of activity to raise the immunity of a region that has been ravaged both by conflict and in some parts also large population movements, to the virus is moving throughout the region. We do not have confirmed genetic sequencing for this virus, but preliminary evidence suggest strongly that it is a virus of Pakistani origin which has been circulating in the region for some time."

Ms Bari says the campaign is targeting 1.6 million children inside Syria with vaccines against polio, measles, mumps and rubella.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 1.34″

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