Raising awareness to prevent polio among Syrian refugee children

Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, November 7, 2013

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Refugee families are especially vulnerable to diseases like polio, which spread quickly in crowded communities with poor sanitation. UNICEF has launched a vaccination campaign to combat the spread of the disease in refugee communities, and to help raise awareness we are distributing flyers in areas where families are most at risk. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

UNICEF has launched a three-week vaccination campaign in Jordan with the goal of protecting nearly 3.4 million people from measles, rubella and polio.

Polio vaccinations are especially urgent, as the World Health Organization has recently confirmed 13 cases of polio in Syria, and the risk of the disease spreading across the region is reportedly very high.

Polio is predominately spread through water or food that has been contaminated by fecal matter, and can spread quickly in crowded communities with poor sanitation, like Zaatari refugee camp.

In order to reach this ambitious target, the entire community needs to be mobilized. We are supporting this effort by distributing more than 10,000 flyers about the campaign, along with our regular distributions of bedding, heaters and hygiene supplies to help families through the winter.

As part of the campaign, babies and youth between the ages of 6 months and 20 years old will receive vaccines for measles and rubella. In addition, those ages five and younger will receive the polio vaccine, as well as Vitamin A supplement to prevent immune deficiencies which can lead to illness, blindness and death.

UNICEF is also focusing on vaccinating 60,000 children and youth in Zaatari refugee camp alone. There, we are educating families about the need for vaccinations, talking to parents and posting flyers in our child-friendly spaces throughout the camp, where we work closely with UNICEF to ensure the health and wellbeing of Syrian children.

Concerns are also high in Lebanon, where the refugee population is largest — but because there are no official government camps, families have resorted to makeshift tent settlements or crowded abandoned buildings without adequate sanitation facilities. UNICEF is conducting another nationwide vaccination campaign there as well.

The polio outbreak highlights the critical need for sanitation work and hygiene education in these refugee settings. As part of our work to increase the clean water supply for refugees in Lebanon, we prioritize building latrines and handwashing stations, distributing hygiene kits with soap and toiletries, and providing cleaning materials and training to keep communal areas free from contamination and families safe from disease.

How you can help

  • Donate today. Every single contribution helps us provide even more food, water, shelter and support to Syrian families in desperate need of help.
  • Learn more about how we're protecting Syria's children.