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Cricket Stars and Theatre Troupes Promote a Polio-Free India
Eleven months ago, India reported its first and only case of polio for the year. The continued commitment of Indian parents and health workers will be crucial if the country is to finally shake off its status as one of the four remaining polio-endemic countries. Tailored community engagement and awareness-raising activities are being conducted to help build community support for continued polio campaigns. The people of India will have to be onside if the country is going to end polio for good.
Stars of India’s favourite game – cricket – have long been involved in promoting polio eradication as part of UNICEF’s ‘Bowl Out Polio’ campaign. Normally used to facing off on the cricket pitch, cricketers from the Indian and West Indies cricket teams came together in November to launch a polio vaccination round. Prominent players such as Virendra Sehwag, Adrian Barath and Darren Sammy all took the opportunity to give polio drops to children.
“The West Indies team is pleased to play a part in this programme and we are happy to assist in any way we can. We are ambassadors for the game and being here is one way of showing our support as India seeks to ‘Bowl Out Polio’,” said Richie Richardson, West Indies team manager and former captain.
Meanwhile, on a more local scale, a theatre troupe is travelling to neighbourhoods dealing with pockets of vaccine refusals, using their performances to educate parents on the risks of poliovirus and the safety of the vaccine. Pictures below show a performance in South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal.
India is currently considered to be one of four polio endemic countries – meaning that it has never stopped transmission of indigenous wild poliovirus. It is the only such country in the WHO’s South East Asia Region. Once India has passed three years without a case, in the context of high surveillance, the region can begin a process to be certified polio-free.
Honorine Mollard Billard, Polio Eradication Officer at WHO, speaks to us about critical country support to vaccination campaigns in Lao PDR and why it is important for polio-free countries to maintain high immunity.