Measles epidemic in Syria shines light on urgent need for humanitarian aid

A measles epidemic is running rampant in northern Syria with 7,000 cases reported, which Médecins Sans Frontières argued is a consequence of the the civil war and the need for humanitarian aid.

MSF reported that the situation in Syria is worsening and the need for humanitarian aid is soaring. Since the conflict began in 2011, its routine vaccination programs fell apart. MSF medical teams in Syria have initiated vaccine programs to meet demand, but health officials say it's extremely difficult.

"Carrying out a vaccination campaign in a polarized conflict such as this one is proving extremely difficult," Teresa Sancristóval, MSF emergency manager, said. "But vaccination campaigns and basic health care are needed as much as war surgery."

Vaccination initiatives have reached 75,000 children in Aleppo, Ar-Raqqah, and Idlib Provinces. Reaching the entire population of those in need and at-risk is extremely difficult, however, when forming a line at a medical center may result in an airstrike or rocket attack.

MSF has focused its iniatives on children, pregnant women and those with pre-existing diseases such as asthma and hypertension. A measles infection typically does not result in death, and with 7,000 infections the death rate in Syria due to measles is low, but an infection does make a child more susceptible for other diseases which can cause death.

MSF reports the death rate resulting from disease in general is increasing as access to basic health care and vaccines is limited. Humanitarian aid groups also reported difficulty gaining access to certain providences, which has made providing health care to those in-need extremely challenging.

MSF is planning to initiate another immunization program to meet the increasing demand for medicine in the area. The target group is 10,000 to 30,000 children, although MSF reports it's difficult to get a population count due to how often families move to avoid conflict.