As Syria awaits confirmation of suspected polio cases in the east of the country, UNICEF has joined the World Health Organisation and other partners in mounting a large-scale immunisation effort aimed at protecting as many children as possible both in the country and across the region against polio, as well as other vaccine-preventable diseases.
Inside Syria, a campaign led by the Ministry of Health began on 24th October targeting 2.4 million children with vaccines against polio, measles, mumps and rubella.
Around 500,000 children in Syria have not been vaccinated against polio in the past two years due to insecurity and access constraints. Prior to the conflict, immunisation coverage in Syria was about 95 per cent.
The conflict in Syria has caused immense displacement, with millions of children on the move, either inside the country or across borders into neighbouring countries and beyond.
“The on-going conflict in Syria has affected more than 3 million children, with around 2 million children displaced, many living in cramped and unsanitary conditions where disease can easily spread,” said Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, Representative at UNICEF Syria.
“The health system has been significantly affected, including the operation of the routine immunisation programme, meaning that some children have not received their vaccinations.”
As a result, routine immunisation systems so critical to preventing childhood diseases have been disrupted or broken down, and children are now at far higher risk of diseases such as polio and measles.
UNICEF is mobilising a huge supply operation to make sure that vaccines are in place across the region, and reaching out to partners across all sectors to help raise community awareness of the importance of vaccinating children.
Multiple, supplemental immunisation campaigns against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases will take place inside Syria and across the region through the end of the year.
UNICEF continues to advocate at the national level for humanitarian access to all children in need in Syria, no matter their location.