ZAHLE, Lebanon - Lebanon launched a massive public health initiative on Friday to vaccinate all children under five against polio, following a confirmed outbreak of the crippling disease last month in neighboring war-torn Syria.
The task is a daunting one in Lebanon, where more than 800,000 refugees are spread across the country in nearly 1,600 locations, including 400 informal tented settlements.
Unlike Jordan and Turkey, which each host more than half a million Syrians, Lebanon has avoided establishing large-scale camps and many of the refugees are living among Lebanese.
The vaccination plan in Lebanon is to go "house by house, tent by tent," said Annamaria Laurini, the UNICEF representative in Lebanon.
The campaign, which is a joint effort between the government, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and a local NGO, aims to vaccinate children of all nationalities living in Lebanon, not only Syrian refugees. Lebanon has not had any cases of polio since 2001, according to UNICEF.
The initiative is scheduled to run through December and is estimated to cost about $3 million.