Statement by Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
AMMAN/DAMASCUS/HONG KONG, 12 October, 2017 – “UNICEF has received reports that ongoing violence in Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria has destroyed a UNICEF-supported vaccine cold room in al-Mayadin district, with at least 140,000 doses of vaccines lost, including some planned for use in tackling vaccine-preventable childhood diseases in the area. UNICEF is currently verifying this alarming report.
“The reported attack is likely to hamper efforts to protect children from a range of life-threatening diseases including measles and polio. Al-Mayadin is the centre of an outbreak of vaccine-derived polio which has so far paralyzed 48 children since March 2017.
“Children living in the Governorate of Deir ez-Zor are extremely vulnerable to the spread of disease and illness.
“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 ez-Zor and Ar-Raqqa. 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.
“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.
“UNICEF calls 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.”