The U.N. confirmed an outbreak of polio in Syria for the first time in more than a decade Tuesday, warning the disease threatens to spread among an estimated half-million children who have never been immunized because of the civil war.
The grim finding added another layer of misery to a brutal conflict that already has killed more than 100,000 people and uprooted millions. The aid group Save the Children urged a “vaccination cease-fire” to try to prevent an epidemic of the highly contagious disease.
Meanwhile, hopes for a negotiated settlement to the three-year conflict appeared ever more distant as Syria’s President Bashar Assad sacked a deputy prime minister for meeting Western officials to discuss the possibility of holding a peace conference — the latest blow to diplomatic efforts to bring the country’s warring parties to the negotiating table.
At least 10 cases of polio among babies and toddlers were confirmed in northeastern Syria, the World Health Organization said — the first outbreak of the crippling disease in 14 years.