Amman, Damascus- The UN children’s agency has received reports that a UNICEF-supported vaccine cold room in al-Mayadin district has been destroyed in ongoing violence in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor, with at least 140,000 doses of vaccines lost.
The report, which UNICEF regional director Geert Cappelaere said Thursday the agency is working to verify, is “alarming” and is likely to hamper an ongoing vaccination drive in the area.
Al-Mayadin is the center of an outbreak of vaccine-derived polio which has so far paralyzed 48 children since March 2017.
“Children living in the Governorate of Deir Ezzor are extremely vulnerable to the spread of disease and illness,” said Cappelaere.
“Attacks on health facilities are a grave violation of international humanitarian law. Children continue to be the first victims of attacks on civilian infrastructure which have become shockingly commonplace in Syria.”
“The continued violence has devastated health infrastructure and severely disrupted routine immunization services and vaccination campaigns, particularly in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa,” Cappelaere said.
Prior to the crisis, Syria was polio-free, with an immunization rate over 80 per cent. National vaccination coverage is now just over 40 per cent.
UNICEF’s regional director also said that “violence continues to be a daily reality for children in several locations around Syria. September was reportedly the deadliest month for civilians this year with attacks on residential areas every day, causing hundreds of conflict-related deaths and injuries.”
He called once again on all parties to the conflict to comply fully with international humanitarian law and respect the protection and welfare of children.
“Boys and girls throughout Syria have suffered beyond belief and for too long already,” he said.