As of this Wednesday, there have been 17 cases of wild poliovirus confirmed in Syria since October, the first reported cases in the country since 1999.
The RI funds are the first to the World Health Organization in direct support of a Global Polio Eradication Initiative plan aimed at outbreak response throughout the Middle East, as the region gears up for a multi-country response to the threat of polio.
The Rotary grant to the World Health Organization will support immediate response activities in late 2013 and January 2014, such as the establishment of emergency response control rooms and initial vaccination rounds to immunize children in Syria and surrounding countries against polio.
“It is imperative that we stop this outbreak quickly to protect children in Syria and throughout the region, and that is the purpose of this grant,” said Dr. Robert S. Scott, chair of Rotary’s PolioPlus program. “Rotary and our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are working together with local health authorities to activate the outbreak response.”
He noted that the cases in Syria appear to be “imported” from Pakistan, one of three countries where the wild poliovirus remains endemic. “These and other recent polio cases in previously polio-free countries serve as stark reminders that as long as polio still exists anywhere in the world, all un-immunized children everywhere remain at risk,” Scott said.
Today, seven countries across the region rolled out vaccination campaigns aiming to reach 22 million children. These campaigns are planned to be repeated over the next six months to protect children in the region from the polio outbreak.