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Weekly Coloumn Back Home

Author: Mohan Sethi
Publication: Punjab Outlook
Date: September 8, 2014
URL: http://www.punjaboutlook.com/1747-weekly-coloumn-by-mohan-sethi-new-delhi--back-home.html

POLIO BEATEN OUT OF INDIA, Great News: India is on its way to get the World Health Organisation (WHO) certification of a polio-free country after having reported no fresh cases in the last three years.  Hailing India's victory over polio, President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday 'commended the nearly 2.3 million vaccinators 150,000 supervisors, together with officials and non-officials without whose efforts we would not be here today,'  said Mr. Mukherjee at an event celebrating a polio-free India.  

WHO Director General Margaret Chan said: ‘India has shown the world that there is no such thing as impossible. This is likely the greatest lesson and the greatest inspiration for the rest of the world.' She attributed the success to world class health surveillance systems in India which not only meet international standards but surpass them.

Mr.Ron D. Burton, President Rotary International  was also personally present on this Special Occasion. With money raised by Rotary ($178 million to date), India began vaccinating hundreds of millions of children. Twice a year, 2.3 million vaccinators administer polio vaccine drops to every child younger than five. That's 172 million kids in the fields, at school, in slums, on moving trains, and in the temporary shelters of migrant workers and traditional nomads. When asked as to what was the Game-changer, Mr.  Deepak Kapur, Chairman of India National PolioPlus Committee, said "There were a couple of things that were significant:

One, engaging the Muslim clerics, the ulema, by bringing them under one umbrella given that most of them don't talk to each other. But we brought them together under the Rotary Muslim Ulema Committee, and that melted away the resistance by Muslim households.

Two, the introduction of the bivalent vaccine - the two strains of polio, P1 and P3, could be addressed with just one vaccine.

Three, the whistle-blowing by Rotarians. They went to the chief minister in U.P. [Uttar Pradesh] and the political authorities in Bihar and said they had to place more emphasis on the polio vaccinations. They were very receptive, which was very unexpected. The authorities took action quickly, and that helped immensely.

According to Mr. Manjit S. Sawhney of the Rotary, S.E. Asia, India has reasons to be proud of this achievement, since other nations, including Pakistan, are still fighting against  this battle.

The other International Donor, Bill Gate in an article said, "India's success in eradicating polio is the greatest global health achievement I have ever witnessed,"  Its success had surprised experts, many of whom regarded India as the most difficult place in the world for the disease to be cleared. The mission would have failed if India had not vaccinated every single child in the country. "India may be the hardest planet to vaccinate every child. The country has some of the most densely populated urban areas in the world making it a challenge to track children polio workers have immunised," he said.

It also needs to record that it was  Dr. Harshvardhan, the then Health Minister of Delhi, who  had started this programme, 20 years ago,  on the Gandhi Jayanti Day in 1994, by organizing  an immunisation drive for nearly 1.2 million children in the capital to eradicate Polio from India.  Dr. Harshvardhan, twice won the  prestigious Rotary International's Paul Harris Fellowship and the ‘Polio Eradication Champion Award' which had earlier been given to former US President Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister John Major and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, besides getting scores of other National and International Awards for accepting the Challenge of making India Polio Free.

Where there is the will, there is a Way!!
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