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article imageSyria: Polio outbreak caused by Pakistan jihadists

By Karen Graham     Nov 3, 2013 in Health
The ongoing civil war in Syria has devastated a country that, two and a half years ago, had subsidized health care. Today, with 7 million people displaced, Syria is dealing with a massive humanitarian crisis, as well as an outbreak of polio.
Syria's Minister of Social Affairs, Kindah al-Shammat, told news reporters on Sunday that Jihadists from Pakistan were to blame for the polio outbreak in the rebel-controlled northern regions.
Al-Shammat could offer no evidence to support the allegation nor did she elaborate. Pakistan is one of three countries where polio is still endemic, Afghanistan and Nigeria being the other two countries.
The minister said the government has started an immunization campaign to "protect all children in Syria," but gave no indication of when the vaccination effort would begin or how it would proceed, especially in the northern region where the polio cases have sprang up.
One of the problems, not mentioned, is the lack of health care workers, because many have left the country or been displaced because of the continuing conflict. Another problem is the northern areas along the Turkish border. They have been under the control of opposition forces since rebels captured large areas. Syria's largest city, Aleppo, was captured last year.
The start of Syria's civil war
The conflict started in March, 2011, and was primarily a peaceful protest against President Bashar Assad's rule. It quickly grew into an armed conflict, and government forces began to crackdown on the dissidents.
It wasn't long before the conflict took on sectarian overtones, with mainly Sunni Muslim rebels fighting against the Assad regime, dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of the Shiites. Today, thousands of foreign fighters have joined the Sunni rebels, while Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon have been added to the regime's troops.
Syria: A country in crisis
Syria's civil war, if it still can be called that, has destroyed the country. Over 7 million people have been displaced or fled it's borders, leading to nothing less than the creation of a humanitarian crisis. Syria was a country with government subsidized health care, and up to two and a half years ago, nearly all children were immunized against polio.
Syrian boys walk to their tent at a refugee camp in Atmeh  Syria.
Syrian boys walk to their tent at a refugee camp in Atmeh, Syria.
Freedom House
Polio is a very contagious viral disease, caused by the ingestion of food or water contaminated by feces. It can cause paralysis and even death. It can spread with ease, often going unnoticed until it's too late. Syria had a highly successful immunization program, and the last outbreak of polio was recorded in 1999.
More about Polio, Pakistan, Terrorists, Bashar Assad, Immunizations
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