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Ravaged By War, Syrian Children Now At Risk Of Polio

For the Syrian children who have survived the bombings, shootings, and kidnappings ripping apart their country, diseases like polio, malnutrition, and gender-based violence continue to erode any semblance of a normal life.

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"We are beyond concerned," UNICEF's Juliette Touma told BuzzFeed. "There aren't enough words to describe the situation of these children. Today the story is about polio. But the Syrian crisis is becoming a global issue that the world needs to address."

Polio has been largely eliminated in developing countries, but it remains endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

Parwiz / Reuters

A worldwide campaign to eradicate polio (like the one pictured here in Afghanistan) has had resounding success: Cases have fallen by over 99% since 1988, from around 350,000 then to 223 in 2012.

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A WHO spokesman told the BBC the virus came from one of those areas, raising suspicion that Islamist fighters trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan brought the disease with them into Syria.

Many more have suffered from disruptions to their education: relocations, violence, and the destruction of school buildings like this one. More than 1 million children have been forced to flee the country.

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To address the problems in Syria and regional refugee camps, aid groups are working to build schools and clinics and to expand learning and safe spaces.

Stringer / Reuters

Students pose for a picture after receiving bags donated from UNICEF in Raqqa, eastern Syria, Sept. 29, 2013.

Former BuzzFeed World Reporter, Current BuzzFeed News Contributor

Contact Miriam Berger at miriam.berger+done@buzzfeed.com.

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