India’s Anniversary: Celebrating Three Years Polio-Free
India marks three years since its last case of polio, despite once being considered the most challenging place to end the disease
Pending final clearance of December and January laboratory samples, the Regional Certification Commission is expected to certify the entire South-East Asia Region of the World Health Organization as polio-free in March.
With a densely-concentrated population of more than one billion people, India was once considered the most challenging place on earth to end polio. The country’s success is a result of remarkable commitment at all levels, from the highest reaches of government to the heroic 2.3 million vaccinators delivering polio drops to local communities.
India’s triumph is a landmark achievement that will vastly benefit children’s health in India and around the world.
The infrastructure and innovations that helped India reach the poorest and most marginalized are now being used to deliver other health interventions like measles vaccines. Social mobilizers from the polio program are counselling pregnant women on breastfeeding and providing newborns with routine immunizations, and the polio surveillance system is helping build capacity for India’s Universal Immunization Program.
India also proves the virus can be eliminated under the most complex circumstances, providing inspiration and technical guidance for eliminating polio in the three endemic countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Lessons from India’s success informed the development of the new Strategic Plan to end polio by 2018 and are already driving progress in the few remaining reservoirs where polio endures.
While India’s anniversary is a significant milestone and proof of what is possible, recent outbreaks in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa – both linked to virus from endemic countries – are proof that as long as polio exists anywhere, it is a threat everywhere. We must capitalize on India’s achievement to end polio globally and protect the health of children everywhere for generations to come.
Help celebrate. Below are just a few examples of activities happening around the world to mark the day:
• Rotary clubs throughout India will illuminate landmarks and iconic structures on 13 January with “India is Polio Free.”
• A new video about St. Stephen’s Hospital in Delhi shows how life has changed in India without polio.