NICOSIA - As Syria’s civil war unleashes a new polio threat the easily communicable disease is not just the neighbouring country’s problem, Rotary District Governor Jamil Mouawad told The Cyprus Weekly.
“Our region is now under threat and Rotary clubs are determined to continue with the anti-polio campaign till the end, no matter what. This is not only Syria’s problem,” he also said.
Cyprus Rotary clubs are organising a charity dinner at the Presidential Palace tomorrow in support of a project by Rotary International to eradicate polio.
The event is under the auspices of President Anastasiades and main speaker is Lebanese-born Mouawad whose governor district includes Cyprus and another eight countries.
The aim of Rotary is to eradicate polio by making a global impact and protecting children against polio forever, he said.
In December, more than 580,000 children were vaccinated in Lebanon, including door-to-door vaccinations for all Palestinian and Syrian refugees less than five years of age, according to the World Health Organisation.
And in Turkey, 1.3 million were vaccinated, mostly in areas near the border with Syria, while in Egypt, over 14 million were vaccinated, including more than 18,000 Syrian children out of an estimated 20,000 present in the country.
“With Syria being in such a grave state, we have dedicated 500,000 dollars to face this problem. A lot of refugees go to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and elsewhere,” he said.
“Health ministries are on alert, all children under the age of five years old have to be vaccinated. We try to raise as much money as possible, we will be about 300 people in Sunday’s dinner,” he added.
What is shocking is that the oral vaccination against polio costs less than 10 cents.
“You can save the life of a child with only two drops in his mouth,” the governor said.
Rotary International launched PolioPlus in 1985, the first and largest internationally coordinated private-sector support of a public health initiative.
Then, the disease was endemic in 125 countries and paralysed more than 350,000 children a year.
In 1988, The World Health Assembly passed a resolution to eradicate polio by the year 2000 while the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched.
When the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began, polio paralysed more than 1,000 children worldwide every day. Since then, 2.5 billion children have been immunised against polio thanks to the cooperation of more than 200 countries and 20 million volunteers.
Polio incidents have been reduced by 250 a year, with a reduction of 99%. There are only three countries that remain endemic: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.