Tik Root | The Washington Post | Photo: Hosam Katan/Reuters
GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Despite grave danger, a campaign to combat the spread of polio in rebel-held Syria has been surprisingly successful, with volunteers inoculating about 1.4 million children since the beginning of the year.
The reemergence of polio in Syria in October alarmed health organizations, which feared that factors such as tainted water, dysfunctional sanitation systems and a mobile population could contribute to a broader, region-wide epidemic.
In response, a coalition of nonprofit organizations quickly recruited and deployed thousands of volunteers in the country’s embattled north, where they won the cooperation of rebel fighters and braved shelling and airstrikes to administer the vaccine to children under age 5. Four volunteers have been killed in the process, but there has not been a confirmed case of polio in Syria in nearly five months.