BEIRUT- The Syrian government excluded the largely rebel-held province of Deir al-Zor - where polio broke out this year - from a 2012 vaccination campaign, arguing that most residents had fled although hundreds of thousands were still there, a Reuters investigation shows.
Public health researchers say missing out the Syrian province contributed to the reemergence there of polio, a highly infectious, incurable disease that can paralyse a child within hours but has been wiped out in many parts of the world.
In November, the World Health Organization (WHO) said 13 cases had been found in the province. Two more have since been recorded there and the virus has surfaced in Aleppo city and near Damascus, the first outbreak since 1999 in Syria, where civil war has raged since a crackdown on protests in 2011.
A Dec 6, 2012, WHO statement said it, in conjunction with the Syrian Ministry of Health and the United Nations Children's Fund, had launched a campaign to vaccinate "all children below the age of five against polio".
It said the campaign, involving 4,000 health workers and volunteers, would cover roughly 2.5 million children in 13 of Syria's 14 governorates except for Deir al-Zor as "the majority of its residents have relocated to other areas in the country".