With no new polio cases reported during the last one year, World Health Organisation, WHO has removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries. India’s Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad announced this at a summit on Polio in New Delhi on Sunday (February 25).
With India crossing the milestone in eradicating the crippling viral disease, it leaves three countries – Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan – with endemic polio.
Opening the two-day summit, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said, “This gives us hope that we can finally eradicate polio not only from India but from the face of the entire mother earth.” India must pass another two years without fresh cases to be declared entirely polio-free.
The mammoth campaign to contain the crippling disease at a whopping cost of Rs. 12,000 crore was launched in 2005 in collaboration with agencies like World Health Organisation covering over 17.2 crore children under the age group of below five years.
Each National Pulse Polio Immunization round covered nearly 17.2 crore children, mobilizing 24 lakh vaccinators under 1.5 lakh supervisors visiting over 20 crore households. Besides the campaign were also extended to railway stations, bus stands, market areas and construction sites to immunize children in transit.
The virus attacks the nervous system and causes irreversible paralysis within hours of infection. It often spreads in areas with poor sanitation and children below the age of five are the most vulnerable.
Dr. Manmohan Singh reiterated his government’s commitment to achieve full immunization of every child in the country. He said, creation of public health cadres to work for prevention and control of diseases is on the anvil.
Indian Prime Minister listed rising cost as a key challenge in providing healthcare to the poor. “We are, therefore, focusing our attention towards social security of the poor with regard to their healthcare,” added Dr. Singh.