WHO takes India off polio endemic list

New Delhi: India has a reason to smile on the polio front, as it was taken off the list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad announced at the Polio Summit 2012 here Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also present.

“WHO has taken India’s name off the list of polio endemic countries in view of the remarkable progress that we have made during the past one year,” Azad said.

The Prime Minister lauded the health volunteers, saying the real credit goes to them.

“I venture to say that the real credit goes to the 23 lakh volunteers who repeatedly vaccinated children even in the most remote areas, often in very bad weather conditions. I commend each one of them for their dedication, for their commitment and for their selfless service,” the Prime Minister said inaugurating the conference.

The Heath Minister also disclosed that from 2 lakh polio cases a year, the country has recorded not a single polio case in the past one year.

“We have won the battle but the war is not yet over. Let us continue our efforts with the same vigour, so that India can be declared polio free in the year 2014,” Azad said.

The Health Minister also said that the ministry has put in place an emergency preparedness and response plan which would be implemented in all states in the country.

“Under the emergency preparedness and response plan, there will be zero tolerance for any new polio case and such a case will be declared as a public health emergency. Rapid response teams have already been formed in all states to rapidly respond to any polio case in the country,” Azad added.

The Prime Minister stressed that it was necessary to ensure that every child across India is immunised.

“We must ensure that every Indian child, rich or poor, whether living in Ladakh or in Delhi has equal access to the best immunization. To this ambitious task I commit our government,” Manmohan Singh said.

According to figures compiled by Health Ministry, 27 per cent of the global expenditure on polio eradication has come from India’s domestic resources.

While India has been taken off the list of polio endemic list by the WHO, three countries — Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan — still figure on the list.

The summit was jointly organised by health ministry and Rotary International, and has been attended by all stakeholders and partners, including UNICEF and WHO along with others.

Representatives from various other countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Nepal and Sri Lanka were also present at the summit.

The two-day summit will conclude Sunday.