Our World Now Faces The Biggest Challenge In The History Of Polio Eradication

by
Fatimah Mazhar
In case you thought Pakistan and Afghanistan and Nigeria were the only polio-endemic countries in the world.

Polio Eradication

In Syria and Iraq, the world can observe the prolonged – and probably the most unexpected – effects of civil war and military invasion.

A United Nations (UN) agency recently declared these two war-torn regions of the Middle East as the biggest challenges in the history polio eradication.

A new case of a six-month-old unvaccinated baby was reported in Baghdad on March 30 and it was found related to the virus that was detected in Syria for the first time in 14 years in October, 2013.

It prompted worldwide concern among researchers that the crippling disease may now be rapidly spreading across the region.

Polio Eradication

"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," a spokesman for the UN Relief And Works Agency For Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) told The Guardian.

Although Pakistan is generally considered to be the world’s worst reservoir for Poliomyelitis – along with Afghanistan and Nigeria – it seems the biggest threat to the eradication of the infectious disease lies in the Middle East.

“The recent detection of a polio case in Iraq after a 14-year absence is a reminder of the risk currently facing children throughout the region,” Maria Calivis, the Unicef regional director for the Middle East and North Africa told the New York Times in a statement.

UNRWA found the following factors responsible for the latest outbreak:

  • Seriously damaged health infrastructure
  • Poor health access and utilization because of insecurity inside Syria
  • Massive movements of vulnerable and at-risk populations in and out of Syria

Polio Eradication

However, the U.N. has already started waging its war against the infectious disease. Within less than a month the Iraqi case was detected.

On Sunday, the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) initiated mass vaccination campaigns for Syria, Iraq and Egypt, aiming to reach more than 20 million children over a period of five days.

Despite ongoing unrest in Syria – where around 27 children have been paralyzed – UNICEF aims to administer its campaign in the conflict-ridden cities because around 323,000 children under the age of five are in desperate need of vaccination.

Lebanon and Turkey will reportedly join the drive on April 10 and April 18, respectively.

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