July 17, 2014

The outbreak of polio in Syria last October was a shock to the international medical community. The countryhas not seen a case of the disease in 14 years, making the reemergenceof polio as surprising as it is urgent. Polio generally affects children under five years of age, and if left untreated can lead to permanent paralysis. More often than not the disease is asymptomatic, making diagnosis and treatment that much harder, and vaccination even more critical. Contaminated water, due to destruction of water treatment facilities, electric power plants and other critical infrastructure, is a large contributing factor to the outbreak in Syria.

At the onset of the outbreak, multiple countries in the region, including Syria, Jordan and Turkey, immediately launched treatment and immunization programs. A joint resolution by all countries of the World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Region deemed the outbreak an emergency for the entire region, and called for negotiated access to affected areas. SAMS is a leading participant in the Polio Task Force, which has successfully delivered 2.5 million vaccines in the first round of its campaign. SAMS continues to be active in delivering vaccines to children, and has vaccinated 1.4 million to date. Not only is SAMS delivering vaccines but ouroffice in Turkey is an active participant in all meetings and discussions about how to best eradicate polio and prevent other communicable diseases. Stopping the spread of polio should be an urgent priority for all international organizations concerned with humanitarian efforts in Syria. SAMS is proud to be a leading organization in the response to the outbreak.

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