Here is a world-historical event that you probably missed this week. India, which holds the world’s second largest population, has not had a new case of polio for one year. That means the World Health Organization can certify India as no-longer a polio endemic country.
How did this happen? Lots of people chipped in. Video from Gates
On the Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog, Dr. Devandra Khandait
Until very recently, India had more polio cases than any country in the world. For more than a decade, working as the lead for polio surveillance at a national and state level in Bihar and more recently in my role at the Gates Foundation, I have joined millions of volunteers, health workers and community and religious leaders, as well as global partners Rotary International, WHO, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and donors, in a sustained and dedicated campaign to rid India of wild poliovirus once and for all….
Success in India proves that polio can be stopped in the toughest places in the world. It demonstrates the possibility of tremendous progress even in the face of difficult economic times, a challenging environment and competing development needs. And it means we can stop polio everywhere, so that no child again, anywhere is ever crippled by this disease.
But, we can’t sit back and rest on our laurels. We must remain vigilant here in India and stay as committed, if not more so, than we’ve been before.
Now, more than ever, we must ensure India’s polio program continues to move forward until global eradication is achieved and translate gains into stronger systems that save and improve the lives of children. This includes the great work in managing measles immunization, surveillance, and other critical health services. We also must inspire other polio endemic countries to continue to use lessons learned from India to their own benefit.
India, of course, will have to keep up its vaccination campaigns to remain Polio free. But taking India off the list means that only Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan remain polio endemic. The long fight against Polio is not over, but the announcement this week by the WHO is a huge tactical victory.