Polio outbreak in the Middle East

War in Syria Opens the Door to an Old Enemy

Child receiving a vaccine
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Khudr Al- Issa


More than eight months after the start of the polio outbreak in the Middle East, mass global action is needed to guard the progress made in protecting children in Syria and across the region. The challenges are immense, especially how to gain regular access to approximately 3 million children in Syria and some 25 million in the region as a whole.

This report sets out the steps needed to stop the outbreak and eradicate polio in the Middle East. This is the only way to ensure no more children in Syria, or the region, are affected by this crippling and incurable virus.

Driving home the need for decisive action, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared on 5 May 2014 that the international spread of polio is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern[1]. This is only the second time WHO has ever issued such a declaration. The international spread of polio during what is normally the low-transmission season, including within the Middle East, is an extraordinary event that constitutes a major public health risk to other countries and requires a concerted international response.

Report cover
UNICEF and Who
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English, Arabic