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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid