UNICEF calls upon Ukrainian government to take urgent measures to prevent polio outbreakKYIV, 30 October 2013 – UNICEF warned today that the outbreak of polio in Syria poses a threat to millions of children in all countries with low vaccination coverage, such as Ukraine. Yesterday, 29 October, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed 10 cases of polio in Syria.
About 4,000 refugees flee the war in Syria every day, in particular crossing TurkeyTaking into account active inflow of people from and to affected countries to Ukraine, the risk of polio importation has become an imminent threat for Ukraine as well.
“In Syria less than 68% of children are vaccinated because of war. But the coverage in Ukraine is even lower than 50% because of public distrust in the country. The health and life of million Ukrainian children are at risk. I address Ukrainian parents to find out reliable information about vaccination from doctors and get their children vaccinated. And Ukrainian government to take urgent actions to organise national immunization campaign”, stated Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine.
Turkey together with other countries in the region is starting immediately large-scale polio immunization campaigns during which all children under 5 will be vaccinated during several rounds.
Due to the dangerously low immunization coverage in Ukraine and the high risk of importation of the virus to the country the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in its report that was published last week, enlisted Ukraine among countries that might be the next to have polio outbreaks.
UNICEF in cooperation with WHO strongly recommends to Ukrainian government to carry out several rounds of nation-wide supplementary polio vaccination campaign to all children born since January 2008 in Ukraine.
Polio virus transmits via contaminated food and water and could spread rapidly to broader areas. Polio invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours or death. There is no cure for the highly infectious disease; it can only be prevented through immunization.
Twenty-two Syrian children became paralyzed last week and the polio virus has been confirmed in samples taken from 10 victims. Results on the other 12 are expected within days. Most of the 22 Syrian victims are under two years old and are believed never to have been vaccinated or didn’t get full vaccination according to the calendar.
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