(Corrects figures for polio cases in 2nd and 9th paragraphs)
* 100,000 children out of reach in rebel-held Raqqa province
* Some 2.15 million Syrian children vaccinated against polio
* Red Cross says food, medicines run short in besieged areas
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Jan 13 Heavy fighting has prevented
health workers from getting polio vaccine to an estimated
100,000 Syrian children in the northeastern province of Raqqa,
United Nations aid agencies said on Monday, appealing for
The crippling infectious disease was confirmed in 17
children in Syria in October, the first outbreak there since
1999. A nationwide campaign was launched in November to
vaccinate some 2 million Syrian children under five each month
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N. Children's
Fund (UNICEF) condemned the halt of the immunisation campaign in
Raqqa province due to intense fighting in Syria's civil war.
Polio poses a "serious risk" in Syria and the region and all
children have the right to be protected from the disease, which
can paralyse a child within hours, they said in a statement.
"We haven't reached Raqqa town in this second round of
immunisation. There are approximately 100,000 children out of
reach in the town and its outskirts," Elizabeth Hoff, WHO
representative in Syria, told Reuters from Damascus.
Raqqa is the only provincial capital under rebel control and
WHO has no direct contact with Islamist groups there, she said.
The al Qaeda-linked Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant
executed dozens of rival Islamists over the last two days as the
group recaptured most territory it had lost in Raqqa, activists
said on Sunday.
Some 2.15 million children across Syria were reached last
week with polio vaccine during this second round of mass
immunisation, including some in Raqqa province, Hoff said.
"The information campaign has been very strong, parents are
bringing their children. The uptake is very good," Hoff said.
"At least we haven't seen any new cases since October," she
added. That month saw 15 cases in Deir al-Zor, in the east, and
single cases in Aleppo, in the north, and Douma (Rural
Syria's government and some rebels may be willing to permit
humanitarian aid to flow, enforce local ceasefires and take
other confidence-building measures in the nearly three-year-old
conflict, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday.
Kerry held talks in Paris with Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov and U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who has
convened peace talks in Switzerland next week in an attempt to
end the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people and
forced millions to flee.
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of
the Red Cross (ICRC), appealed for greater access for aid
workers at the end of a three-day visit to Syria.
"Health supplies, food and other basic necessities are
running dangerously short, especially in besieged areas, where
the situation is critical," Maurer said in a statement.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)