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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More