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Opinion Pieces, Editorial Address Spread Of Polio In Syria

The following is a summary of two opinion pieces and an editorial addressing a polio outbreak in Syria.

  • Joel Brinkley, Kansas City Star: “With little health care to speak of, infectious diseases are devastating the nation — including a new outbreak of polio, not seen in Syria since the late 1990s,” Brinkley, a former New York Times columnist and the Hearst professional in residence at Stanford University, writes. “Polio is a highly contagious disease with no cure, and remember that more than two million Syrians are refugees in neighboring states,” he continues, adding, “All of this presents a humanitarian disaster for Syria — and potentially the region and the world.” He states, “The United Nations is correct: [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] absolutely must allow health and humanitarian workers free and protected access to the affected areas of his country” (11/1).
  • Ahmed Rashid, Financial Times’ “The A-List” blog: “It is a frightening indictment of the civilized world’s utter failure at peacemaking in Syria that a disease the WHO and organizations such as the [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation] have, in a global campaign, been so close to eliminating has returned with a vengeance,” Rashid, an author of several books about Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, writes. “If the U.N. Security Council is not able to put to rest its squabbles and stand-off over Syria, and if China and Russia are not able to agree with the west on a common strategy to fight a potential polio epidemic, then how on earth can we expect a peace conference by the end of the year or anything even approaching an end to the conflict?” he asks, adding, “Surely the lives of children and averting a polio epidemic is a cause that should unite the world rather than divide it, or worse still, be ignored by the world’s leaders” (11/1).
  • Washington Post: “The outbreak is a sign of what happens when health care systems collapse. Most ominous, about half a million Syrian children have not been immunized,” the editorial states. “Vaccination is the most critical tool in the battle against polio, and a large-scale effort is being mounted to reach the unvaccinated children,” the newspaper writes, adding, “The United Nations and Syria’s neighbors ought to demand that all sides — government forces and the opposition — guarantee that volunteers immunizing children do not become targets or victims.” The editorial concludes, “Roadblocks can stop fighters, but they will not stop poliovirus, which threatens all in its path, the children of rebel fighters and army generals alike” (11/2).