UN agencies call for actions against polio in Syria
Posted on Jul 23 2014 | IANS
Geneva, July 23 : The World Health Organisation and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund Tuesday said in a report that actions are needed to protect children against polio in Syria as polio cases resurfaced in the conflict-stricken country.
The first case of polio in Syria since 1999 was reported in October 2013. So far 36 children have been paralysed by the disease, Xinhua reported.
The report noted the return of polio to Syria is a result of the disruption of routine immunisation, severe damage to Syria's health infrastructure and the continuous displacement of people within Syria and across its borders and missing out on children.
According to the report, polio vaccination has decreased in Syria from an average of 99 percent to 52 percent. At least 60 percent of Syria's hospitals have either been destroyed or damaged.
In addition, less than a third of public ambulances still function. Vaccination supply and service vehicles and cold chain equipment have been damaged, put permanently out of service or lost.
Chris Maher, WHO manager for Polio Eradication and Emergency, said that "polio had forced its way back to Syria".
The report said that critical actions must be carried out to end the polio spread in the region, which including immediate and unhindered access to hard-to-reach children under the age of five inside Syria, guaranteeing the safe passage of health workers and protect medical vehicles, as well as raising awareness on polio and the need to vaccinate all children under the age of five around the region.
Data showed that more than 6.5 million Syrian children now require life-saving humanitarian assistance. 765,000 children under the age of five live in rural areas where conflict and restriction makes it very difficult to reach to offer them humanitarian assistance such as regular access to vaccines.