News / Health

India Declared Polio-free, but Global Risks Persist

FILE - Health workers from different states attend a function to celebrate the third year after India was declared polio free in New Delhi, India, Feb. 11, 2014.
FILE - Health workers from different states attend a function to celebrate the third year after India was declared polio free in New Delhi, India, Feb. 11, 2014.
Reuters
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared India free of the crippling polio virus on Thursday, making the country's almost two-decade-long, multi-billion-dollar effort one of the biggest public health achievements in recent times.
 
India's last case of the wild polio virus was detected in January 2011 in a two-year-old girl in the state of West Bengal. Three years without any new cases means a country can be certified as polio-free.
 
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the only countries in the world left where the virus remains endemic, largely due to violent conflicts, weak health systems and poor sanitation.
 
“This ceremony ... marks one of the biggest public health achievements,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the WHO's Southeast Asia director, told diplomats and health officials at the event.
 
“It is a day that all countries fought hard for, and a day when all stakeholders come together to celebrate the victory of mankind over a dreaded disease that, for centuries, has killed and disabled legions.”
 
Until the 1950s, polio crippled thousands every year in rich countries. It attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours of infection.
 
The highly contagious virus often spreads in areas with poor sanitation and children under five are the most vulnerable.
 
In 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative - led by governments and supported by organizations such as WHO, Rotary International and the U.N. Children's Fund - was launched to ensure comprehensive, nationwide vaccination in endemic nations.
 
More than 350,000 children across 125 countries were being paralyzed or killed by polio every year at that time. That figure has since reduced by 99.9 percent and in 2013, just 406 cases of polio were reported.
 
India - where more than 50,000 children were afflicted with the virus every year - was considered one of the toughest places in the world to eradicate polio. Many families in poor, high-risk northern states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh migrate for work, while others live in remote areas.
 
Millions of health workers were involved in India's mammoth drive to immunize children by giving them polio drops.
 
They targeted migrant families at bus stations, on trains and at festivals. Some used motorcycles or trekked by foot to reach villages.
 
As a result, over 170 million children are now immunized every year, with millions more targeted in house-to-house visits in a drive which has cost the government $3 billion since 1995.
 
In 2009, 741 Indians fell sick with polio, nearly half the world's cases that year. The number dropped to 42 in 2010 and only one in 2011.
 
In Pakistan - the only country where polio cases are increasing - gunmen frequently attack polio workers, accusing them of being Western spies and part of a plot to sterilize Muslims. Earlier this month, militants killed 12 members of the security escort for a polio vaccination, detonating a roadside bomb before opening fire on their convoy.
 
In neighboring Afghanistan, a three-year-old girl was found in February to have contracted the first case of polio in the country's capital Kabul since 2001.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid