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Editorials, Blog Address Spread Of Polio In Syria

The following is a summary of two editorials and a blog post addressing polio in Syria, where the WHO on Tuesday confirmed 10 of 22 suspected cases of the disease.

  • Baltimore Sun: “The re-emergence of polio in Syria, which had been virtually eliminated in that country over the last two decades, inevitably will increase the misery of civilians caught up in the conflict. But it also has profound implications for the rest of the world,” the newspaper writes. “Delivering vaccine in a country wracked by civil war represents the biggest obstacle health officials face in trying to contain the disease,” the editorial states, noting the U.N. is “unable to reach many areas of the country where government and opposition forces are locked in combat and refuse to guarantee the safety of health workers trying to enter contested areas.” The newspaper adds, “Breaking such deadlocks so that vaccinations can resume ought to be a priority for peace talks between Syrian opposition groups and the government of President Bashar al-Assad scheduled for next month, and the U.S. should use whatever influence it has to make sure the issue receives the attention it deserves” (10/30).
  • New York Times: “Civilians have paid a terrible price ever since President Bashar al-Assad of Syria used force to crush peaceful protests that began in 2011, touching off a full-scale civil war,” the editorial states. “Now comes another trial: the country’s first outbreak of polio in 14 years,” the newspaper writes. The U.N. “has asked its members for $1.5 billion to provide food, schooling and medicine to vulnerable Syrians,” which “is short of the need,” the editorial states, adding, “The best way to help the Syrians is to end the war. The next best thing is to mitigate the suffering by contributing generously and by pressuring both sides in the conflict to allow aid workers to deliver essential supplies” (10/30).
  • Walt Orenstein, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog: “Polio’s return to Syria reinforces the urgent need to interrupt transmission in the remaining endemic countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Orenstein, a professor and associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University, writes in the blog. “These countries serve as reservoirs where the poliovirus is transmitted from person to person in a continuous chain,” he states. “The good news is endemic countries have made remarkable progress this year,” Orenstein writes, adding, “We must capitalize on this progress to finally end polio in the endemic countries and eliminate the chance of it emerging anywhere else” (10/29).

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