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WHO certifies India, other Asian nations polio free

Published Mar 27, 2014 07:19pm


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Chairperson of South-East Asia Regional Certification Commission for Polio Eradication Supamit Chunsuttiwat, second left, displays the certificate in New Delhi on Thursday. – AP Photo
Chairperson of South-East Asia Regional Certification Commission for Polio Eradication Supamit Chunsuttiwat, second left, displays the certificate in New Delhi on Thursday. – AP Photo

NEW DELHI: The World Health Organisation officially certified India and 10 other Asian countries free of polio on Thursday, a milestone lauded as a “momentous victory” over an ancient scourge.

The Southeast Asian region, which includes India but excludes Afghanistan and Pakistan, was certified by a panel of experts after the countries went three years without reporting a single new case.

The WHO said the certification meant 80 per cent of the world's population lived in polio-free regions and was an important step towards global eradication of the crippling disease.

“This is a momentous victory for the millions of health workers who have worked with governments, nongovernmental organisations, civil society and international partners to eradicate polio from the region,” said WHO Southeast Asia regional director Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

There are only three countries where polio is still endemic – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

However, isolated outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and war-racked Syria emerged as new causes for concern in 2013, and polio vaccination workers in Pakistan are still being killed by the Taliban.

“Until polio is globally eradicated, all countries are at risk and the region's polio-free status remains fragile,” Singh cautioned.

The certification is particularly significant in India, home to 1.2 billion people, and which until 2009 still accounted for half of all cases globally.

The certification confirms one of India's biggest public health success stories, accomplishing something once thought impossible, thanks to a massive and sustained vaccination programme.

India celebrated the milestone on January 13 – which marked three years since the last reported new case in the country, that of a teenage girl in a slum in the eastern city of Kolkata.

India reported 150,000 cases of paralytic polio in 1985, and 741 new infections that led to paralysis in 2009. In following year, the number of new victims fell to double figures before the last case in January 2011.

India's poor sanitation, mass internal migration and dilapidated public health system made many experts believe it would be the last country to eradicate the disease, if at all.

The countries certified Thursday were India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, South Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and East Timor.

Polio is a virus spread through faecal matter that affects the central nervous system and can leave victims with withered limbs, paralysed or dead.

There is no cure but it can be prevented through mass vaccination programmes which target children aged under five.


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Comments (20) Closed

AHA Mar 27, 2014 07:47pm

I think all Indian polio viruses will now seek political asylum in Pakistan.

Mumbai-Pune online Mar 27, 2014 07:48pm

Good News for India.

SYEDA SARA BATOOL Mar 27, 2014 08:37pm

may pakistan get this certificate in 2015,,,,,,

Sandip Bhattacharya Mar 27, 2014 08:51pm

@SYEDA SARA BATOOL: I sincerely wish that too!

Sm Mar 27, 2014 09:55pm

Congrats India. Let's hope and pray Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria get rid of it soon for the sake of all.

Pure Pakistani Mar 27, 2014 10:13pm

@SYEDA SARA BATOOL: Pakistan will not until crippling mentality vanish from Pakistani People.

imran Mar 27, 2014 11:02pm

It will be increasingly difficult in Pakistan to be Polio free because religious zealots are on a campaign to disrupt any progressive either be it in science or education. The downward spiral will continue until Pakistan become free from religious bigotry.

El Cid Mar 28, 2014 01:27am

Will make no difference to the malnutrition, starvation and disease so prevalent in Bharat.

Hyder Mar 28, 2014 02:34am

@El Cid: Janaab, we too have equally intense or probably worse issues of starvation, malnutrition, stunted growth of children & disease, in our country, and you will notice it only if you keep your eyes & ears open. You seem to be still living in the years of 1970s & 1980s. During the last two decades our neighbour has changed much for the better, but we on the other hand seem to be marching backwards. You need to visit KPK, FATA, rural Sind & especially Balochistan, to see the misery of our people.

If you compare the GDP (nomial), as per the UN report (2012), India had $ 1516/capita, whereas our Pakistan had $ 1201/capita. Please remember, just by simply hating India, we are not going to improve. While our neighbour marches fast ahead, by 2025 we would be able to compare ourselves only with countries like Afghanistan or Somalia, whereas India would probably be in a different league altogether. Today you might be aware, of the 30 odd Indian States, just their one State like Maharashtra has more GDP (nominal), compared to the GDP (nominal) of whole of Pakistan. [As per the the UN report (2012), Pakistan GDP = $ 215 billion, as against Maharashtra GDP = $ 275 billion]. Even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, who have signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India, are marching forward quite fast, and may leave us well behind, as we are reluctant to have even a normal trade with our regional economic giant.

Civi varghese Mar 28, 2014 03:25am

congrats to india for achieving the goal.

Shobhit Mar 28, 2014 07:20am

@El Cid: In fact it will do,in the sense that it will empower the NGos and Institutions with more confidence to fight against other social maladies prevalant in "Bharat". Starvation, Malnutrition and Disease are prevalant among the very low income group of India's population. Given India's demographics, its easier said than done. And its far easier to write down a one line note berating "Bharat" than actually looking deeper.

Alan Paul Mar 28, 2014 11:03am

@Hyder: very well said....Hope things improve between two nations.

El Cid Mar 28, 2014 05:10pm

@Shobhit: And its far easier to write down a one line note berating "Bharat" than actually looking deeper.

That is the gist. A summary. An abstract...a pr

El Cid Mar 28, 2014 07:00pm

@Shobhit: The use of "Bharat" seems to have irked you. It is indeed Bharat and NOT India. You may not like it but India ceased to exist mid August 1947. It was divided into Pakistan and Bharat. Check your constitution and verify.

Sanjeev Bansal Mar 28, 2014 08:20pm

@Hyder: nicely said, although India has many issues as well.. but only together can we all grow.!

akhtar Azhar Mar 29, 2014 07:49am

developed countries use newly invented medicine on our children before using it in own country. they killed our children by use of drone attack. what will happen if the polio virus harbour by our children affect their children and died or crippled by these vires. when these vaccine were not prepared had the the population died or its strength decreased. what will bharat do with this certificate when it population cook the skin of banana collect from road and eat roti with it.

EQ8Rhomes Mar 29, 2014 09:35pm

@Sm: Just remember that viruses don't know political borders or nationality and ocuntries should establish protocols to ensure that people are vaccinated before they are allowed to come across borders. This is one incentive for the anti-polio elements to stop their activities and help their families enjoy freedom of movement. It is just a matter of good health and good neighbourliness. GREAT ECONOMICS,too! Polio is life-long devastation and very expensive.

EQ8Rhomes Mar 29, 2014 09:41pm

@El Cid: Bharat isn't the only one in South Asia to suffer malnutrition,starvation, and disease! The Pure Holy Land north west also has all of them plus major home-grown terror. El Cid : For once, please let facts speak for themselves and quit getting all huffy and defensive! Start by congratulating Bangladesh and India! It won't kill you or your family, but polio could!

EQ8Rhomes Mar 29, 2014 09:45pm

@Hyder: Thanks, Hyder! I appreciate your post and the stark details. People usually do hitch their wagons to success stories, and "El Cid", needs to learn that fact, instead of being narrow-minded and resentful!

EQ8Rhomes Mar 29, 2014 09:50pm

@akhtar Azhar: Quit being mean and vicious. Fact is: Developed countries have used their best meds to cure their own FIRST! You and the very poor come last, because you have to able to afford thos meds!