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UNICEF and partners provide vaccination against polio and measles for nearly 232,000 children in Syria and Iraq, many affected by violence in northeast Syria

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Maisa, 3, receiving oral polio vaccine (OPV) in Al-Hol camp, northeast Syria, as part of a five-day national immunization campaign aiming to reach 2.7 million children across Syria. © UNICEF/UNI219059/Ahmad

AMMAN, 25 October 2019 – UNICEF and partners have provided polio and measles vaccines for approximately 230,000 children under the age of five in Al-Hasakeh governorate, in northeast Syria, including in collective shelters and camps such as Al-Hol and A’reesha.

Since the latest wave of violence in northeast Syria escalated less than two weeks ago, at least 80,000 children have been forced to flee their homes.

Nearly 4,000 children have fled the violence to Iraq, crossing the border into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq via the Sahela and Al-Waleed border crossings and are now in Bardarash camp in Dohuk, north of Iraq. UNICEF-supported teams are at the border, working with partners to vaccinate children against polio and measles. To date, 2,790 children have been vaccinated against polio and 2,595 children have been vaccinated against measles.

“Nearly nine years of war have caused vaccination levels among children in Syria to plummet from 80 per cent pre-conflict to less than 50 per cent,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Reaching children who are at high risk for diseases including measles and polio is critical”, he added.

In 2013, a polio outbreak paralyzed 36 children in Syria and another two in Iraq the following year. In response, UNICEF and partners launched the largest ever polio vaccination campaign in the history of the region, reaching more than 25 million children in seven countries, multiple times. No new cases of wild poliovirus have been reported in these countries since.

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