The children of Syria, by far the biggest losers in the brutal, gruesome and deadly civil war in that country, are even being victimized by international organizations that are supposed to be there to help them.
An immunization program administered by the World Health Organization was suspended after reports that as many as three dozen children died after receiving vaccinations.
As reported by the website The Crazz Files, as many as 36 children died very painful deaths after they were administered tainted measles vaccines under the UN-sponsored program in a rebel-held enclave in northern Syria.
Officials suspended the program after hearing reports that the vaccines may have been sabotaged amid a high-profile international effort to make sure that the brutal civil war there doesn't result in a measles outbreak.
Physicians in the towns of Jirjanaz and Maaret al-Nouman, in the northeastern province of Idlib, said vaccinated children fell ill shortly after the doses were given. The numbers of children who fell ill and died are conflicting, but that's understandable given the chaotic nature of the situation in Syria.
Did the Syrian government do this?
Relief organizations across the border in Turkey have said that the loss of young life has been extensive, rising to at least 36 children dead while leaving a dozen more in serious condition. "It's very bad," said Daher Zidan, who coordinates the medical charity, Uossm. "The figures of dead we are getting go into the 30s. Children are dying very quickly. We think it will get worse."
A Syrian coalition opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which controls the Idlib province and had been administering the program, said that it halted it immediately and has no immediate plans to restart it.
"The Syrian interim government's health ministry has instructed a halt to the second round of the measles vaccination campaign" after several fatalities and injuries among children "in the Idlib countryside," a statement noted.
Medical authorities told officials that a contaminated batch of the vaccine is the most likely the explanation for the deaths, which have put a damper on a rare breakthrough: An international effort to bring some health care delivery, however misguided (because it is a vaccination effort), does not happen often in the war-torn country.
Officials with WHO said the organization was quickly combing through reports but could not yet confirm the death toll. Other Syrian groups that are meticulously followed also said there have been some deaths.
"At least five children have died and 50 others are suffering from poisoning or allergic reactions after measles vaccinations in Jirjanaz, in Idlib province," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
More deaths are expected
Sympathizers with the opposition groups have been circulating images of children on social media who were dying after being vaccinated. Some have suggested that the vaccine batch was tainted with cyanide, quite possibly by agents loyal to the Assad regime, in a bid to undermine confidence in the groups.
Idlib is just one of a few strongholds of a rebel movement backed by the West that has mostly been concealed by news about the Islamic State and al-Qaeda's Jabhat Al-Nusra, in parts of Syria not controlled by the regime.
One Syrian doctor working in Turkey, Mohammad Mowas, told reporters that the affected children experienced gradual slowdowns in their heart rates, with infants turning blue – all consistent with cyanide poisoning. "This looks like [a] deliberate attempt to spike the vaccines," he said, as reported by The Crazz Files.
Some believe that the death toll will rise dramatically. That's because each bottle of the allegedly tainted vaccine contain 40 doses, and medics suspect that two bottles were affected.
"Save the Children is appalled and deeply saddened by the news of the deaths of a number of children and the hospitalization of many more after receiving vaccinations for measles in northern Syria today," the Save the Children organization said in a statement.
If Assad is responsible for killing Syrian children, he should be arrested and charged with the same crimes that Nazis were charged with following World War II.