BEIRUT - The Syrian government promised on Monday to ensure delivery of vaccinations and humanitarian aid across the country, after an outbreak of polio in the northeast and warnings of malnutrition in areas under military siege.
Twenty-two children in Deir al-Zor province bordering Iraq were left paralyzed last month. The polio virus has been confirmed so far in 10 of them, and experts say it could spread quickly across the region.
The outbreak was confirmed as a previously planned immunization campaign was being launched to vaccinate 1.6 million children against polio, measles, mumps and rubella, in both government-controlled and contested areas of Syria.
"We want vaccinations to reach every Syrian child wherever they are - either in a conflict zone or an area where the Syrian army is present," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told a televised news conference in Damascus.
"This must reach every Syrian child and we pledge this [will happen], and we will grant every opportunity to humanitarian organizations to reach every Syrian child."
He did not say how the government, fighting a 2-1/2-year-old war with rebels battling to topple President Bashar Assad, could guarantee delivery of supplies. But his comments appeared aimed at pinning the blame for any failure on the rebel camp.