Health

Dr. Nancy: Almost 38,000 Syrian babies born as refugees

March 12, 2014 at 12:28 PM ET

Image: A premature Syrian baby sleeps in an incubator at a hospital in Chtaura, Lebanon
Jerome Delay / AP Images for NBC News
A premature Syrian baby sleeps in an incubator at a hospital in Chtaura, Lebanon, March 10, 2014.

There are "almost 38,000 Syrian children who are born as refugees outside of their own country," Dr. Nancy Snyderman told TODAY Wednesday. NBC's chief medical editor is in a Lebanese hospital near the Syrian border, examining the ongoing humanitarian crisis the war is having on its tiniest victims.

Syria’s civil war, about to enter its fourth year, has taken a heavy toll on children, and left more than 5.5 million deprived of food, medical help, schooling or safety, according to UNICEF statistics. UNICEF calls Syria “one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a child." The report says the conflict has displaced 3 million children inside Syria and forced at least 1.2 million to flee as refugees.

For the mother of a Syrian toddler suffering from a polio-like illness at Tayaanel hospital in Chtaura, Lebanon, it's been a painful few days of waiting.

The child, Nevine Mohammed Almasre, is an unvaccinated 19-month-old refugee from war-torn Syria. Nevine was examined by the World Health Organization at a hospital in Lebanon on Tuesday, and tests are being conducted to determine if the illness is polio, NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman said in a TODAY report Wednesday.

The results, though, will take several days, Snyderman said.

If Nevine does have polio, it would be the first documented case of the disease among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Snyderman reported Tuesday, a troublesome development because the disease can spread quickly in packed refugee camps.

Polio, which had been mostly wiped out around the world, returned to Syria in October, and vaccination rates have fallen. Twenty five cases of polio have been confirmed in Syria, in addition to 84 cases of measles in the first week of 2014, according to the WHO.

Dr. Nancy visits tiniest refugees of Syrian war

As part of the NBC News live documentary, “Forgotten? Syria’s Children of War,” Snyderman checked on a few of the tiniest Syrian refugees at the hospital in Lebanon, just 3 miles over the border with Syria.

She made the rounds with Dr. Zaher Haider, the chief of pediatrics who planned to visit patients at six hospitals in a single day, determining when each baby is strong enough for an uncertain life away from a hospital.

“While life is tough here and the refugee camps are dismal, these babies have one thing to do … and that is to get well," Snyderman told TODAY.

How you can help Syria's children

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