Millions of children in Middle East will be vaccinated against polio this month

AMMAN: Millions of children in the Middle East will be vaccinated against polio this month after the crippling disease resurfaced in conflict-hit Syria, the United Nations said today.

Mass vaccinations have already been launched in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, while a similar campaign in Lebanon will start on March 9, the UN Children’s Fund Unicef said in a statement.

Ala Alwan, World Health Organisation regional director for the eastern Mediterranean said polio does not respect borders, adding that the detection of polio in Syria is not Syria’s problem alone, but one requiring a regional response

Preliminary evidence suggests the virus in this outbreak — and also polio samples found in sewage in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip — came from Pakistan, one of the disease’s last bastions.

The Syrian Ministry of Health said in October that polio had returned to the country for the first time in almost 15 years.