India is one of the 11 countries in the South East Asian region which have been certified as being free of the wild polio virus. The Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad received the official certificate at a function in New Delhi on Thursday.
This achievement makes the South-East Asia Region, the fourth WHO Region to be certified as polio-free, after the Region of the Americas in 1994, the Western Pacific Region in 2000 and the European Region in 2002.
“India has been polio free since January 2011. India embarked on the programme to eradicate polio 19 years ago in 1995, when the disease used to cripple more than 50,000 children in the country every year”, Azad said.
“This achievement has been possible with resolute will at the highest levels, technological innovations like the indigenous bivalent polio vaccine, adequate domestic financial resources and close monitoring of polio programme, with which immunization levels soared to 99 per cent coverage and India achieved polio eradication. A 2.3 million strong team of polio volunteers and 150,000 supervisors worked day and night to reach every child,” he said.
A 2.3 million strong team of polio volunteers and 150, 000 supervisors worked day and night to reach every child.
The Health Minister expressed gratitude towards WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others stakeholders, including the parents of the children, for their strong technical and operational support to this collective effort in this region.
Also present at the certification ceremony were representatives from WHO and senior officers from the Ministry of Health and family Welfare.