Syrian refugee Mohammed Sammor is vaccinated against polio at a clinic in Lebanon. The UN fears the disease could spread. (Photograph: Bilal Hussein/AP)
The World Health Organization reported an eruption of polio cases in Syria this past year. At least 38 people in Syria and a child in Iraq have contracted the disease.
The Guardian reported:
A UN agency has described the eruption of polio in Syria as perhaps “the most challenging outbreak in the history of polio eradication” after the number of cases in the war-ravaged country reached 38 and the first case was confirmed in neighbouring Iraq.
According to the World Health organisation (WHO), the Iraqi case – found in a six-month-old unvaccinated child in Baghdad – is related to the outbreak in Syria, fuelling fears that the virus is spreading around the Middle East.
“The current polio outbreak in Syria – now with one confirmed case in Iraq – is arguably the most challenging outbreak in the history of polio eradication,” said a spokesman for the UN relief and works agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA).
“Seriously damaged health infrastructure, poor health access and utilisation because of insecurity inside Syria, and massive movements of vulnerable and at-risk populations in and out of Syria – all make controlling the outbreak and rendering health protection to Palestine refugees in Syria and across the region very challenging.”
The Syrians can than Pakistan for the spread of the disease. Islamists oppose the regional polio vaccination campaign. They accuse health workers of acting as spies for the U.S. and claim the polio vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.
Al Arabiya reported:
Last year, Pakistan recorded 92 new cases, beating Nigeria and Afghanistan – the only other polio-endemic countries – by almost 2 to 1, the World Health Organization said.
Pakistan’s beleaguered battle to eradicate polio is threatening a global, multi-billion-dollar campaign to wipe out the disease worldwide. Because of Pakistan, the virus is spreading to countries that were previously polio-free, U.N officials say.
“The largest polio virus reservoir of the world,” is in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, according to WHO…
…Fresh cases of polio – traced through genetic sequencing to the Pakistani strain of the disease – are showing up in countries that were previously polio-free, including Syria and Egypt, as well as in the Gaza Strip, said Ban Khalid al-Dhayi, the spokeswoman for UNICEF in Pakistan. UNICEF is tasked with persuading a reluctant tribal population that lives along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan – perhaps one of the most dangerous places on the planet – to vaccinate their children.
“A lot of countries that spent so much money and resources eradicating polio are worried,” al-Dhayi said in an interview.