Ministry of Public Health, Lebanon

Title: Polio outbreak in the Middle East –Update


Randa Hamadeh is the head of the Primary Health Care department, and the manager of Immunization and Essential Drugs Program at the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health. She contributed to creating a PHC network in Lebanon through which preventive programs and community health initiatives could be initiated, usually involving local municipalities and NGOs. Mrs. Hamadeh contributed to the introduction of the PHC facility accreditation program in Lebanon in 2008, and is the vice chair of the national accreditation committee. Mrs. Hamadeh has actively participated in the foundation of various NGOs. She is the author of many public health papers and booklets. She holds an MPH degree, and a Vaccinology Diploma and is currently a senior lecturer in the faculty of Health Sciences at the Antonine University in Lebanon.


A comprehensive outbreak response continues to roll out across the Middle East following confirmation of the polio outbreak in Syria. As of 20 March 2014, some cases have been reportedin the Syrian Arab Republic: The most recent case had onset of paralysis on 17 December 2013. Further evidence of regional spread was confirmed lately by notification of a WPV1 case from Iraq, the first polio case in the country since 2000. The case developed paralysis on 10 February 2014. Genetic sequencing indicates the virus is most closely related to virus detected in the Syrian Arab Republic. Prospects for rapidly controlling this event are positive, as Iraq has been part of a regional Middle East emergency outbreak response since confirmation of polio in the Syrian Arab Republic. However and in response, all countries of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, in a joint resolution, declared polio eradication to be an emergency, calling for support in negotiating and establishing access to those children who are currently unreached with polio vaccination. WHO and UNICEF showed high commitment to working with all governments to help vaccinate all children including Syrian children no matter where they are: In Lebanon, and as the risks of polio grows across the Middle East, the Ministry of Health launched an urgent national immunization drive to stop the disease regaining a foothold in Lebanon after an absence of 13 years. In addition to that, efforts have been ongoing to strengthen subnational surveillance sensitivity to ascertain the full extent of transmission, and since October 2013, 24 supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) have been conducted across the region to reach more than 22 million children with multiple doses. Larger-scale outbreak response across the Syrian Arab Republic and neighboring countries will continue, to last for at least 6 to 8 coming months depending on the area and based on evolving epidemiology.