‘Vaccination ceasefires’ needed in Syria
Tragic Result of War - ‘Vaccination ceasefires’ needed in Syria to prevent Polio Outbreak turning into Epidemic
Media Release – Wednesday 30 October 2013
Vaccination ceasefires are needed in Syria to prevent the current polio outbreak turning into an epidemic which threatens children across the Middle East region, Save the Children warned today.
The call from the aid agency came as the World Health Organisation and the Syrian government confirmed an outbreak of polio in the eastern province of Syria, the first time the highly contagious disease has been seen in the country for 14 years.
Half a million children under the age of five in Syria are at risk of contracting the disease, which is incurable and can result in lifelong paralysis as well as death.
The movement of Syrians to take refuge in neighbouring countries means that there is a high risk the virus could spread across the region.
Vaccination ceasefires would mean pauses in fighting to allow vaccination campaigns to take place across both sides of the conflict. These ceasefires, also known as days of tranquillity, have previously been carried out successfully in Afghanistan, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The World Health Organisation is currently drawing up plans to carry out vaccination campaigns but Save the Children is concerned that these may not reach all areas of Syria. The international children’s charity says it is key that the WHO-coordinated response must cover the entirety of Syria, including where necessary, across borders from neighbouring countries.
Save the Children New Zealand’s chief executive Heather Hayden said: “Polio doesn’t respect conflict lines or borders so we need these ceasefires to reach all children with vaccines, no matter where they live. If chemical weapons inspectors can be allowed access across Syria with notebooks, surely aid workers can be allowed in with vaccines.”
“The fact that an outbreak of polio has now been confirmed in Syria is another sign of the desperate and spiralling humanitarian situation there. The UN Security Council recently agreed on access for humanitarian relief across Syria. This polio crisis is a clear test of whether all sides of the conflict will respect the Security Council’s presidential statement and allow unhindered humanitarian aid.”
Save the Children has vaccinated 21,000 children against polio in Syria but wants to reach many more. They are also delivering life-saving aid to thousands across Syria and are helping hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in countries throughout the region.
Notes to editors:
‘Vaccination ceasefires’, also known as ‘days of tranquillity’ have historical precedence:
- Earlier this month Sudan announced a temporary cessation of hostilities between the military and rebels to carry out a polio vaccination for children under five that will reach more than 150,000 children.
- In 2001 the United Nations negotiated a week-long ceasefire in Afghanistan allowing nearly 35,000 health workers and volunteers to reach 5.7 million children under five in a countrywide polio vaccination campaign.
- In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there were days of tranquillity in 1999 and 2000 which allow 11 million children to be immunised. http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/hbp/cease_fires/en/
- Save the Children is delivering life-saving aid to thousands across Syria and is helping hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in countries throughout the region.
- The UN estimates at least 6.8 million Syrians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, but an NGO survey of seven governorates in northern Syria found more than 10.5 million people in needs of assistance.
- More than one million children have fled Syria, over 7000 have been killed and more than two million lack access to sufficient food inside the country.
- Save the Children works in 120 countries. We save children’s lives. We fight for their rights. We help them fulfil their potential.
- Save the Children New Zealand works to save and improve children’s lives primarily through education and disaster risk reduction programmes. We focus on helping children in New Zealand, the Pacific and Asia, and support children in emergencies around the world.
- We work with our partners to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve both immediate and lasting change in their lives.
For more information about Save the Children New Zealand www.savethechildren.org.nz