News / Middle East

Polio Outbreak in Syria Prompts Fears of Regional Spread

Polio Outbreak In Syria Prompts Fears Of Regional Spreadi
X
October 31, 2013 9:58 PM
An outbreak of polio among children in Syria has the potential to spread rapidly, doctors are warning. It is Syria’s first polio outbreak in 14 years and aid agencies have begun emergency vaccination programs. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London
Henry Ridgwell
An outbreak of polio among children in Syria has the potential to spread rapidly, doctors are warning.  It is Syria’s first polio outbreak in 14 years - and aid agencies have begun emergency vaccination programs.

The province of Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks between government and rebel forces.

Now there is a new emergency. Polio has been detected among several children in the area.

Oliver Rosenbauer is from the Polio Eradication Program at the World Health Organization.

“A lot is still unknown and investigations are still ongoing. They all appear to be very young so less than age 2 and they all appear to be under or unimmunized," said Rosenbauer.

Before the outbreak of conflict in Syria, the United Nations says 95 percent of children were immunized against the disease. Now there are an estimated half a million children who have not been vaccinated.

The World Health Organization, alongside the Syrian Ministry of Health, has begun a vaccination program targeting 2.4 million children.

Elias Durry, the WHO’s emergency coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan, says there is a danger that the outbreak could spread rapidly.

“When a virus gets introduced to a country that has not had a lot of immunization in some years, you see really a major outbreak where hundreds of children are getting paralyzed from something that could have been prevented," said Durry.

Polio flourishes in unsanitary conditions and can cause paralysis and death. It is highly contagious and children are especially vulnerable.

Nine-hundred days of conflict has taken a big toll on Syria’s public health system, says Andrej Mahecic of the U.N. refugee agency.

“It is estimated that about half the medical facilities have been affected by the conflict in some way. More than 1,500 doctors have left the country. Certainly a lot more medical staff has also left the country as the crisis continued to unfold. So this certainly has an impact on the conditions inside Syria.”

The war has forced millions of people from their homes - and refugees are on the move both within Syria and over its borders.  Again, Andrej Mahecic:

“Mass vaccinations have been taking place among the refugee population in the neighboring countries. Some of the children have been systematically vaccinated already on the border, but clearly more needs to be done, and new vaccinations are being planned in the weeks and months to come," he said.

The U.N. this week chartered a plane to fly vaccines and emergency food aid into Beirut - from where it is being trucked into Syria. Aid agencies say the fighting makes access to vulnerable populations extremely difficult.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid