For those of us living in the West, the term polio, a disease that produces muscle weakness and eventual paralysis and occasional deformities in body parts like the leg, conjures up in our minds faded black and white photos from the first half of the 20th century. Though once rare, the disease was never fully wiped out and has, in fact, begun to reestablish itself as a danger to the world at large, specifically within developing or war torn countries.
Recently, the World Health Organization has confirmed multiple cases of the disease, mostly involving children, within Syria, which has been ravaged by civil war for over two years, sparking fears that the once thought eradicated malady may spread to neighboring countries as refugees flee from the fighting raging within Syria’s borders.
According to the Christian Science Monitor...
“Before the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, the vaccination rate [for polio] in Syria was above 90 percent, bolstered by a relatively strong public health system. But after almost three years of violent and destructive civil conflict, that figure has dropped to 68 percent. Most unvaccinated children are under two years old, making them particularly vulnerable to polio, which is usually spread through fecal matter.”
The fact that young Syrians are at the most risk for the rebirth of this debilitating disorder as well as the additional danger of other diseases having the chance to foster and spread throughout the Middle East due to a now wrecked Syrian medical infrastructure, questions are prompted as far as what responsibility those of us outside of this war torn country have to save that which has been lost.
“The WHO is now working with the UN, Syria's Health Ministry and other agencies on a mass immunisation programme.”
This will most certainly be a challenge ”..given the widespread insecurity and estimates that over half of Syria's medical professionals have left the country," adds the article.
What then can we do to step in and fill that void? What are the options ergo creating or sustaining medical infrastructures within war torn or still developing countries, where resources are thin and danger is often omnipresent?
Let us know what you think on this important subject.