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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs