Polio vaccination campaign continues through Syrian snow storms

Publié: 23 décembre 2013 10:27 CET

By Vivian Tou’meh and Ali Raef Obeid, SARC

Deir Ezzor city is divided into two parts, and it is possible to reach from one side to the other only by crossing the river. Ten SARC volunteers began a two day operation on the 14 December to the hot areas of Deir Ezzor – besieged for 18 months – and reached most of the children with polio vaccines.

The first outbreak of polio in Syria was in the neighborhoods of Zubian, Subaikhan and al-Asharaah and one case in khat al-Kasr in al-Mayadeen area in Deir Ezzor.

“My feelings were indescribable when I entered the Deir Ezzor city with my colleagues,” says Ali Obeid, a volunteer from SARC’s Deir Ezzor branch. “We were so happy because the media was watching us and witnessing the reality of our work and how we are serving our people, our community, whatever the means. We are there. We are with people. But on the other hand, we were sad to see people in need of food and basic supplies.”

Even snow and cold did not prevent volunteers going to children around the country for the second phase of the polio campaign’s six phases.

The volunteers used the boat to cross a distance of about 500 meters in order to reach children living in this area. They went from door to door to vaccinate children in their homes and opened a health point in a hospital inside the city.

One of the volunteers says: “I am so happy. During those two days we reached many vulnerable children. It is the best ever achievement we have had and I hope we can repeat it.”

“People are convinced now that SARC should be everywhere more effectively on the ground,” Ali explained.

According to volunteers children there have little access to education services and the medical situation is difficult because of a shortage of medical personnel and supplies.

In another mission, the Deir Ezzor volunteers also reached children in the villages of Rural Deir Ezzor located on the international road between Palmyra and Deir Ezzor. They brought vaccines to 250 children in Kabajec, 250 children in al-Mansoura, 150 children in al-Madbaa, 80 children in Amhan and 650 children in al-Shoula.

In Al-Mayadeen, which is located on the right bank of Euphrates River and about 45 kilometers far away from Deir Ezzor city, the SARC volunteers of al-Mayadeen sub-branch also took part in the polio campaign. They managed to provide vaccines to children inside the shelters who have not been fully immunized.

According to SARC Deir Ezzor branch, the total number of children reached during the first phase of the polio campaign was 3,700, and during the second phase the campaign reached 260,000 children in the governorate. The third phase of the campaign will start on 5 January, 2014.

“Someone told us that the displaced people couldn’t reach us to have their children vaccinated. That’s why  we took the vaccinesto them,” said one of the volunteers in al-Raqqah branch.

In Aleppo, SARC has also been involved in the polio campaign via the children hospital. In Rural Damascus, SARC volunteers continue this mission with determination to reach children around the city.

A recent report showed multiple cases of acute flaccid paralysis in Syria, meaning it is currently the major public health event of concern in the region; 17 cases of wild poliovirus type 1 have been confirmed in three governorates.

SARC is working on the campaign in close coordination with its partners UNCHR, UNICEF, WHO and the Ministry of Health.