Aaron speaks with Simon Ingram, head of UNICEF communications in the region, about the polio crisis in Syria and surrounding areas. For more, visit childrenofsyria.info
UPDATE: Following 'businesslike and encouraging' discussions, senior Syrian officials and the UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake agreed on the importance of reaching hundreds of thousands of children in some of the worst-affected parts of war-torn Syria with life saving vaccine including those against polio as Mr Lake ended a two day visit to Damascus.
The need to immunize every child quickly and without obstacle was a key focus of Mr. Lake's discussions with Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al Halqi, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Faisal Miqdad and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Hosam Eddin A'ala.
'Immunizing children is in its very nature non-political and has no connection to any military considerations,' said Mr. Lake. 'With cases of polio now emerging in Syria for the first time since 1999, reaching every child with polio and other vaccinations is not only an urgent and critical priority for Syria but for the whole world.'
In a meeting with frontline volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) Mr. Lake expressed on behalf of UNICEF his admiration for all the work SARC volunteers are doing, their courage, and the sacrifices they have made in this cause.
With SARC and with national and other partners UNICEF will be working to reach the 500,000 and more children who have not been reached with vaccinations due to the conflict in some of the hardest to reach parts of the country.
Over the past 20 years, child mortality has fallen by 35 per cent around the world. Yet too many children still die needlessly, most of them from causes that are both treatable and preventable.
Innovations save lives
In 2010, 7.6 million children died before reaching their fifth birthday. It is a sharp decrease from 1990, when more than 12 million children died under age five ' but it is not good enough.
With less than 3 years left to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) deadline on reducing child mortality, this progress must be dramatically accelerated.
The interventions needed to save these children are, for the most part, known. Existing high-impact, low-cost interventions such as vaccines, antibiotics, micronutrient supplementation, insecticide-treated bednets, improved breastfeeding practices and safe hygiene practices have already saved millions of lives.
And in recent years, the global community has learned a great deal about how to best provide mothers and children with quality health care. This knowledge presents an unprecedented opportunity to save many more children.
UNICEF in action
The chance to survive is a right owed to every child.
UNICEF and its partners are leading global efforts to end preventable child deaths, working with governments, national and international agencies, and civil society to support effective and life-saving actions at each phase in a child's life ?' from prenatal care in a mother's pregnancy to effective and affordable health care through childhood and into adulthood.
Sixty years of experience tell us that we can turn back child mortality and meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. But we must act together, and we must act now.