SOCIAL GOOD: India and Polio- A Global Health Success Story

SOCIAL GOOD: India and Polio- A Global Health Success Story

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.

Indian school children wave at the camera during a visit to an Indian slum with Save the Children. Photo credit: Author

Indian school children wave at the camera during a visit to an Indian slum with Save the Children. Photo credit: Author


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.

Nicole Melancon (USA)

Third Eye Mom is a stay-at-home mom living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her two children Max (6) and Sophia (4). Her children keep her continually busy and she is constantly amazed by the imagination, energy and joy of life that they possess! A world wanderer at heart, she has also been fortunate to have visited over 30 countries by either traveling, working, studying or volunteering and she continues to keep on the traveling path. A graduate of French and International Relations from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she met her husband Paul, she has always been a Midwest gal living in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago. This adventurous mom loves to be outside doing anything athletic (hiking, running, biking, skiing, snowshoeing or simply enjoying nature), to travel and volunteer abroad, to write, and to spend time with her beloved family and friends. Her latest venture involves her dream to raise enough money on her own to build and open a brand-new school in rural Nepal, and to teach her children to live compassionately, open-minded lives that understand different cultures and the importance of giving back to those in need. Third Eye Mom believes strongly in the value of making a difference in the world, no matter how small it may be. If there is a will, there is a way, and that anything is possible (as long as you set your heart and mind to it!). Visit her on her blog, Thirdeyemom, where she writes about her travels and experiences in other lands!

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RHODE ISLAND, USA: By Eradicating Polio We Give Kids A Shot@Life

The Author's Mother

The Author’s Mother

She had one leg shorter than the other.  Not in such a glaringly obvious way that one would immediately notice, but you could tell if you studied her walk or she pointed it out to you, like she did to me when I was little.

I couldn’t fully understand the story as a child, but my mother had contracted Polio when she was around three years old, and almost died.  I remember that part because she had two names.   Mildred was the name she was given at birth, and Goldie was the name she was re-named after she had recovered, as is customary in the case of near death experiences in the Jewish religion.

By the time I was born, the Polio vaccine had been developed and was administered widely to children in the United States.  Polio was nearly eradicated in this country by then, and so the story of my mother’s near death from Polio became to me a long-ago folk tale from her childhood.

Sadly, that has not been the case for the rest of the world.  Sure the numbers have dropped 99% since 1988 when there were 350,000 known cases around the world, to the 218 reported cases in 2012.   Still, the fact is, that as long as Polio remains in even one child, children the world over are at risk of contracting the disease.  The victims of the highly infectious Poliomyelitis virus that attacks the nervous system are usually children younger than five years old.


Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog,, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid,, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on, Johnson & Johnson’s,,, and Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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Saturday Sidebar: Any Volunteers?

This week’s Saturday Sidebar Question comes from World Moms Blog writer Kyla P’an.  She asked our writers,

“How do you expose your kids to, or educate them about, serving others and volunteerism?”

Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…

Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA writes:
“I think the best way is to lead by example and bring the kids along so they can understand better. They can join in and you will have great opportunities for conversations about helping others with them.

For example, I recently threw a party for the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign at my house. We raised awareness for vaccinations to save the lives of children in developing nations, and we also collected school supplies for a local charity, too.

I let my daughter stay up a little later that night, and she helped collect the school supplies at the door. I took her with me later that week to drop off the items, so she could see where they were going. She had a lot of questions!” (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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