The World Health Organisation (WHO) today presented official certification to India for its ‘Polio Free’ status. India is among other countries in its South East Asian region which have been certified as being free of the wild polio virus. The Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Sh Ghulam Nabi Azad received the official certificate at a function, here today. 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.
Speaking at the function, Sh Azad stated that India has been polio free since January 2011. Speaking on the historic occasion on behalf of all South-East Asian Health Ministers, Shri Azad expressed happiness and satisfaction at the historic public health achievement which seemed impossible with India having the highest burden of Polio cases in the world.
The Health Minister stated that India embarked on the programme to eradicate the nation of polio 19 years ago in 1995, when the disease used to cripple more than 50,000 children in the country every year. He stated that 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% coverage and India achieved polio eradication. He stated that this unbelievable operational feat has been possible due to the tireless efforts of over a million ASHAs and ANMs who gave a new momentum to polio rounds. 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 the WHO’s SEARO countries, senior officers from the Ministry of Health and family Welfare and representatives of partner agencies such as Rotary International, UNICEF, and DFID.