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

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

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