Global action needed to protect children against polio in Syria, Middle-East

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Over 25 million children have been vaccinated against Polio in the Middle East in one of the biggest immunization campaigns to be jointly undertaken by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund UNICEF.

In Syria close to two million children were immunized but according to UNICEF, many displaced children are at risk of contracting polio due to the disruption of routine immunization programmes by the on-going conflict.

UNICEF says Syrian immunization coverage has dropped from a high of 99 per cent before the war to just under 55 per cent.

Juliette Touma, from the UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa says polio has forced its way back into Syria and has already left 36 children with permanent disabilities.

"Polio has returned to Syria largely due to the disruption of routine vaccination because of the conflict, the devastating impact and the damage to Syrian health infrastructure, the exodus of trained health workers from the country and the continuous displacement of the population inside Syria. We estimate that there are 765,000 children inside Syria who live in areas that are hard to reach, and as long as we don't get full and regular access to these children the chances of polio spreading further will continue to exist which means more children inside Syria and beyond will continue to be at risk of being paralysed by polio."

She says WHO and UNICEF will need $58 million dollars to undertake more polio vaccination campaigns in Syria, Iraq and the entire Middle east region.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration 1’46″

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January 2018
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