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Likely setback to immunization campaign in area where 48 children have been paralyzed by polio

Statement by Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

AMMAN/DAMASCUS, 12 October, 2017 – UNICEF has received reports that ongoing violence in Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria has destroyed a UNICEF-supported vaccine cold room in al-Mayadin district, with at least 140,000 doses of vaccines lost, including some planned for the ongoing vaccination drive in the area. UNICEF is currently verifying this alarming report.

The reported attack is likely to hamper efforts to protect children from diseases. Al-Mayadin is the centre of an outbreak of vaccine-derived polio which has so far paralyzed 48 children since March 2017.

“Children living in the Governorate of Deir ez-Zor are extremely vulnerable to the spread of the illness. The latest case of paralysis was confirmed only earlier this week in the very district where the cold room is located.

“Attacks on health facilities are a grave violation of international humanitarian law. Children continue to be the first victims of attacks on civilian infrastructure which have become shockingly commonplace in Syria. The polio outbreak is a case in point. It is unconscionable that children in Syria are suffering from the lifelong effects of polio because of a war that is not of their making”.

“This is the second polio outbreak to hit Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011. The continued violence has devastated its health infrastructure and severely disrupted routine immunization services, particularly in Deir ez-Zor and Ar-Raqqa. Prior to the crisis, Syria was polio-free, with an immunisation rate over 80 per cent. National vaccination coverage is now just over 40 per cent[1].

“Violence continues to be a daily reality for children in several locations around Syria. September was reportedly the deadliest month for civilians this year with attacks on residential areas every day, causing hundreds of conflict-related deaths and injuries.

“UNICEF calls once again on all parties to the conflict to comply fully with international humanitarian law and respect the protection and welfare of children. Boys and girls throughout Syria have suffered beyond belief and for too long already.”


For more information contact:
Juliette Touma, UNICEF Regional Office, +962-79-867-4628,

Tamara Kummer, UNICEF Regional Office, + 962 797 588 8550,



UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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[1] WHO and UNICEF estimates of national routine immunization coverage, 2016 revision

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