January 13th, marked three years since the last recorded case of polio in India and the country was officially declared polio-free. This is a miracle in healthcare and counts as one of India’s greatest accomplishments. The country’s massive anti-polio campaign began in 1995, on which more than $3 billion has been spent, and more than 2.4 million vaccinators employed, to traverse the length and breadth of the country to administer the vaccine.
Nobody believed that a country that used to report 200,000 new cases of polio every year could eradicate the scourge that left millions crippled. Even as late as 2009, India was home to almost half (741) of all new polio cases (1604) reported globally. What India now needs to do is to translate the enormous success of eradicating polio to other diseases like diarrhoea, which kills a staggering 1.4 million infants and children every year.
Watch the video of India’s last polio ward in St. Stephen’s Hospital in Delhi to inspire some hope that India will be able to tackle other diseases like diarrhoea and measles in the years ahead.
Here are reactions from India and around the world to the news that India is finally polio-free.
India Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad called the achievement “monumental” and said: “”I think this is great news not just for India but the entire globe.”
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: “India’s achievement is one of the most impressive accomplishments in global health, ever.”
New York Times editorial (Eradicating polio everywhere): “India’s victory is an important milestone in the global effort to eliminate polio.”
The Hindu editorial (Scoring over polio): “For India, this is an enormous public health achievement. Not so long ago experts believed that India, with its huge population, many poor and living in squalor, would be the very last to eradicate polio, a disease that once struck 50,000 to 100,000 Indian children annually.”
Hamid Jafari, director of the WHO’s polio-eradication campaign: “You’re talking about community leaders, religious leaders, academic leaders, opinion leaders, so just getting — really turning it into sort of a national movement, so that everybody feels that they are part of this movement. It’s not only just the health department that has to deliver on this. And I think that’s the kind of tipping point for Nigeria and Pakistan. I mean, these two countries have done a lot of good work and have made a lot of progress. It’s what it is going to take to bring them to the tipping point where India is now.”