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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid