Three years ago, on January 13th India proudly declared the country polio-free after an unbelievable push to rid the country of this debilitating disease. In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to officially certify India as polio-free, leaving only three countries left to rid the disease: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Since the 1988 launch of a highly effective and powerful global campaign to eradicate polio, we have seen remarkable progress: In 1988, there were 125 countries with polio and today there remain only three. India’s astounding victory has been an incredible success story that has been inspiring to watch unfold.
The almost insurmountable effort to rid the second most populous country in the world of polio has been nothing short of heroic. Countless people, non-profit organizations, governmental, and global health institutions were involved in this massive effort to ensure that every single child in India was, and continues to be immunized against polio. Not only does India have an enormous population of children to vaccinate there are around 27 million new children born each year – India itself is a very large country with some of the world’s most remote and hard to reach destinations. Ensuring that every child has been immunized against polio continues to be a massive feat (India employed an army of 2.5 million vaccinators who immunized over 175 million children) yet also proves that the world can eradicate polio from the planet. If we do so, it will be only the second time in history that we have eradicated a disease in humans.
After traveling to India, I have continue to be amazed by what a massive campaign this has been, and what it all entailed.
Per End Polio Now, “Experts once considered India the most technically difficult place to end polio. As recently as 2009, India was home to nearly half the world’s polio cases.High population density, migrant populations and poor sanitation presented exceptional challenges to eliminating this crippling disease”.
Furthermore, India is home to millions of people who live in extremely remote, hard to reach villages that can take days to reach by foot. Yet despite these obstacles, the Indian government working together with Rotary International and other global health institutions accomplished what once seemed almost impossible.
Per Bill Gates recent article titled “India’s Finally Polio-Free. Here’s Why it Matters”published on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists:
“It’s one of the greatest public health accomplishments of all time, and a powerful reminder of just how important it is to continue the fight to eradicate polio worldwide”.-Bill Gates
Recent polio outbreaks in war-torn Syria have proven that highly contagious polio can still spread and if we want to wipe polio off the face of the earth, there is no more opportune moment than now. We must continue to fund vaccination programs and push the three remaining countries to continue their fight against this horrible disease. The astounding accomplishment in India proves that this is a battle that can be won and is an important reminder of how people can work together to achieve the almost impossible task of vaccinating each and every child.
Do you believe we can wipe out Polio in our lifetimes?
This is an original World Moms Blog post written by Nicole Melancon of ThirdEyeMom.