News / Health

Egypt Fights Back Against Syria Polio Outbreak

Egypt Fights Back Against Syria Polio Outbreaki
X
November 18, 2013 6:07 PM
Egypt this week joins other countries in the Middle East in ramping up vaccinations against polio. The move comes as an outbreak of the potentially fatal disease in Syria threatens to help the nearly-eradicated disease make a comeback. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from Cairo.
Egypt Fights Back Against Syria Polio Outbreak
Elizabeth Arrott
Egypt this week joins other countries in the Middle East in ramping up vaccinations against polio.  The move comes as an outbreak in Syria threatens a comeback of the nearly-eradicated disease.

As part of the endeavor, Egypt has begun a new round of vaccinations against polio, one of several national efforts in the Middle East after the crippling disease recently resurfaced in war-torn Syria. 
 
UNICEF representative Philippe Duamelle in Cairo notes the virus “needs no visa to cross borders.” 
 
“Polio is back in the region.  This is terrible news for everyone,” says Duamelle.
 
Across Cairo, anxious parents are bringing their children to health ministry clinics, as the Syria outbreak brought Egypt's immunization campaign new urgency.  Ahmed Fathi stood in line at a center in the south of the capital as soon as the campaign got underway.
 
Fathi said he, like many people, is very worried and that's why he brought his child the first day.  He wants to make sure nothing like that happens in Egypt.
 
  • Anxious parents lined up across the capital as Syria's polio outbreak brought Egypt's immunization campaign new urgency, Cairo, Nov. 17, 2013. (Yuli Weeks for VOA)
  • Nurses at a health center handed out candies to children after vaccinating them for polio, Cairo, Nov. 17, 2013. (Yuli Weeks for VOA)
  • An employee of the Egyptian Health Ministry at a recent polio vaccination campaign event wears an "End Polio Now" pin, Cairo, Nov. 17, 2013. (Yuli Weeks for VOA)
  • Egypt has begun a new round of vaccinations against polio, one of several national efforts in the Middle East after the crippling disease recently resurfaced in war-torn Syria, Cairo, Nov. 17, 2013. (Yuli Weeks for VOA)
  • Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, which shelter large numbers of Syrian refugees, have all launched mass vaccination campaigns, Cairo, Nov. 17, 2013. (Yuli Weeks for VOA)
  • Egypt has joined other countries in the Middle East in ramping up vaccinations against polio, Cairo, Nov. 17, 2013. (Yuli Weeks for VOA)
  • Rumors spread by some religious leaders and others that the vaccine is a plot by Western powers to harm or even sterilize Muslim children have hampered efforts, but even among conservative Muslims here in Egypt, such suspicions are dismissed, Cairo, Nov.
  • Egyptian Health Minister Maha el Rabat looks on as a child is immunized against polio in Cairo, Nov. 17, 2013. (Yuli Weeks for VOA)

Egypt has a robust immunization program, and was declared polio free in 2006.  But in Syria, nearly three years of war has disrupted vaccination efforts, and after 14 years of no reported cases of polio, the disease has made a comeback.
 
The Syrian government, along with world health groups, is working to establish safe corridors to let health workers access children in need of the multi-stage vaccination process.
 
Mass campaigns are also underway in Lebanon, which along with Egypt, Jordan and Turkey shelters large numbers of Syrian refugees.   UNICEF's Duamelle says all children in the region under the age of five need to get vaccinated.
 
But it is not just the Syrian outbreak that is the problem.  Last year in Egypt the same strain of virus causing illness in Syria was found in Cairo's sewers.
 
Egyptian Health Minister Maha el Rabat, who toured various Cairo clinics to drum up support, says the polio virus could have arrived in the country by any number of means.
 
“Because we have a dynamic action of people moving in and out of the country and we are having refugees as well and we are having our people going to other countries and coming back so the wild virus was detected," says el Rabat.
 
The strain originated in Pakistan, which is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic.  The other two are Afghanistan and Nigeria.
 
Rumors spread by some religious leaders and others in those countries that the vaccine is a plot by Western powers to harm, or even sterilize Muslim children have kept some parents from vaccinating their children.  UNICEF's Duamelle says these conspiracy theories are hugely damaging.
 
“It is absolutely not true.  Vaccination campaigns worldwide are organized to save children's lives,” says Duamelle.
 
But among even conservative Muslims here in Egypt, such suspicions are dismissed.
 
Hanna Ramadan, wearing the niqab, or full veil, while carrying her child to a hilltop clinic in eastern Cairo, showed faith in the efforts to stop the disease.  She says the health ministry is “very careful about such things.”
 
The campaign, led by public and private groups, including the World Health Organization and Rotary International, aims to deliver 13 million doses of vaccine in Egypt.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid