TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2018

Report says polio will continue to spread in Middle East without vaccines

The United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organization warned on Tuesday that the number of children infected with polio in hard-to-reach areas of the Middle East will continue to rise without vaccines.

The announcement comes on the heels of the largest ever polio vaccination campaign in the Middle East, according to the UN News Service.

"We got to a point where we had to work with very limited resources to defeat what had been a long forgotten enemy in this region: one that does not know borders or checkpoints and can travel fast, infecting children not just in war-torn Syria but across the region," Chris Maher, the manager of WHO's polio eradication initiative, said.

The most recent outbreak of polio in Syria has paralyzed 36 children so far, with another 765,000 Syrian children living in areas that are difficult to reach. The UNICEF and WHO report said that polio vaccine coverage in Syria dropped from 99 percent at the start of the conflict three years ago to 52 percent today.

Two national campaigns to fight polio in Syria are planned for October and November.

Iraq's health minister also declared a outbreak in March when a polio case was detected in Baghdad. Another case was reported the following month.

Four new cases of polio were also reported this year in Somalia.