India is on the verge of getting rid of Poliomyelitis – the infectious disease more commonly known as polio. It has been three years since its last case was detected in the country of more than one billion, and considering the size of its population, it’s a remarkable achievement for their Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The World Health Organisation will not officially declare India polio-free until final testing of the collected samples from the region takes place, but it’s believed to be just a case formality at this point. The WHO’s stamp of approval – which is expected to come in March – would be the fruit of an almost 20-year-long effort on the Indian government’s part that started with the launch of Pulse Polio campaign in 1995.
In 1985, India had 150,000 polio cases, which, by 2009, had subsided to just 741. Two years later, just a single case was found, with that unlucky victim being an 18-year-old West Bengali girl Rukshar Khatoon – whose father Abdul Shah now regrets not having his two daughters vaccinated like his only son.
But in the subsequent three years, not a single Indian child was diagnosed with polio. It hasn’t been a coincidence. It hasn’t been god’s gift either. The Indian government has worked their ass off and made sure their immunization network covers each and every child in the country. Local authorities now intend to dedicate the same efforts to the eradication of other diseases.
The situation is in strike contrast to the one in the neighboring Pakistan, where terrorist attacks on polio workers have led to partial stoppage of their vaccination campaign. The terrorism-hit South Asian state as well as Afghanistan and Nigeria remain the only three polio-endemic countries in the world. The trailing trio should perhaps try to replicate India’s model and get the crippling menace that is polio out of their system.