International Rescue Committee (IRC)

David Miliband: Polio must be the last disaster for Syria


“Polio must be the last disaster for Syria” - IRC president and CEO, former UK foreign secretary, David Miliband calls for an immediate ceasefire in response to confirmation of a polio outbreak in Syria.
IRC president and CEO, David Miliband said:
"The tragic confirmation of polio in Syria is further evidence of a growing health crisis that is ravaging a country already in the grip of conflict. We need an immediate humanitarian cease fire to allow access for immunization campaigns. Any denial of medical care is a weapon of war against the Syrian people, particularly for the more than 5 million now displaced within their own country who are difficult to track and immunize.
Polio must be the last disaster for Syria. It is outrageous that in the 21st Century vulnerable Syrians now risk being afflicted with polio.
This is an urgent problem: 1 out of 200 children infected with the polio virus develops paralysis. The other 199 that are infected do not develop the disease, but are spreading the virus and infecting others. The outbreak in Deir al-Zour threatens neighboring governorates where the International Rescue Committee is providing life-saving medical care, as well as in neighboring countries. An immunization campaign is urgently needed in these regions and the IRC is ready to act, and can reach up to 300,000 people quickly, but we need safe access and supply.
The IRC calls on the World Health Organization and UNICEF to work with the Syrian and Turkish governments to make the Oral Polio Vaccine available immediately, at the scale necessary.
Vaccination is the most effective way to limit the spread of polio but simple hygiene measures can also help limit the spread of the virus while the vaccination campaign starts to roll out. So the IRC is preparing vigorous hygiene campaigns, including hygiene education and the provision of soap, to thousands of families without it and at risk.
While the Oral Polio Vaccine is effective and easily administered, it requires storage and transport at cool temperatures. The IRC has a 'cold chain' ready in Syria, with help from UNICEF, which will provide, for example, cold boxes for vaccine transport. But we need safe passage and supply immediately."
For further information, or to request to speak with Mr Miliband, please contact / +1 212 551 2744.