Growth Of Urban Slums Increasing Risk Of Disease Outbreaks; More Effort Needed To Vaccinate People In Cities
Science: Syria, slums, and health security
Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
“…The risk of epidemics of deadly infectious disease is elevated by millions of vulnerable people converging on and taking refuge in urban areas. … Urban slums are not new, but the scale and prevalence we are seeing is. We are ill-prepared for their rate of growth, and the associated increase in risk of infectious outbreaks. … Although much has been made of refugees fleeing Syria, 6.3 million people remain internally displaced, with a further 4.7 million believed to be trapped in besieged cities and hard-to-reach areas. Rather than escaping cities or seeking refuge in humanitarian camps or shelters, millions are simply taking shelter where they can in the cities, with little or no access to health care. These conditions have fostered outbreaks of polio, measles, meningitis, and drug-resistant tuberculosis. … Conflict or not, often the first step is recognizing that slum dwellers are there — they frequently get overlooked. … Governments urgently need to check these blind spots, and the global health community must develop new ways to identify and reach those affected. For too long, health authorities assumed that the hardest-to-reach communities lie in remote villages, when increasingly they are hiding in plain sight in cities” (4/28).