WHO and Turkey work to vaccinate Syrian refugees

Turkey is working with the World Health Organization as part of a cross-regional response to a suspected polio outbreak in Syria, WHO Europe announced on Thursday.

Turkey is increasing surveillance of suspected cases and the vaccination of Syrian citizens under temporary protection within its borders. WHO established a new presence in Gaziantep, Turkey, near the country's border with Syria. The field presence opened on October 10 to work with Turkish authorities to address the health needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey and to support the WHO's global response to the Syrian crisis.

The field presence will coordinate with health partners providing services to Syrian refugees in southern Turkey. The WHO began working with Turkey's government on the Syrian matter in December through an interagency field assessment and follow-up missions. The organization plans to scale up its field presence to support the Turkish response to the suspected polio outbreak.

Out of two million Syrians displaced in neighboring countries, more than 500,000 are residing in 21 Turkish camps and private accommodations in 10 provinces. Health authorities in Turkey plan to administer two rounds of supplementary immunization activities by the end of 2013 for all children under the age of five in certain provinces. An active search is underway to provide additional vaccine doses to children considered to be under-immunized or unimmunized throughout the country.