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Polio vaccination drive launched

The United Nations says a massive campaign to vaccinate children in the Middle East against polio has begun after the first cases in 14 years were confirmed in northeastern Syria last week.

The UN children's fund said that Red Crescent and government health workers in Syria and neighbouring countries aim to immunise 20 million children.

Unicef said 10 children have so far been paralysed by the virus and it poses a risk to hundreds of thousands of children across the region.

It added preliminary evidence indicates that the strain in Syria is of Pakistani origin and is similar to one found in sewage samples in Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Polio has been eradicated in most countries but remains endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

AP

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