Boost for global polio eradication campaign

India's triumph can help other polio-endemic countries understand how to deal with the challenge, Deepak Kapur, chairperson of Rotary’s India National PolioPlus Committee, tells Kundan Pandey

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Thursday 27 March 2014

Deepak KapurAfter huge struggles, India has finally become entitled to polio-free certification from the World Health Organization. What lessons does the country offer to the world, especially in struggles against communicable diseases?

The certification of India and Southeast Asia provides an important framework for the global campaign. If the spirit of teamwork and collaboration that India applied to achieve its goal is applied across the globe, we will soon deliver a polio-free world to the children. The country reaches out to children who get missed out from the programme.

It is important that the country continues sharing the lessons learnt and addressing the unique challenges the campaign faces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Some of the steps that India undertook to achieve its goal are:

  • A robust surveillance and monitoring system: India’s house-based micro-plans mapped children and vaccinator responsibilities at the household level to ensure that no child was missed
  • Extensive social mobilisation activities to make the campaign a movement, encouraging participation of all
  • Spread of awareness by UNICEF’s SMNet and rotary volunteers
  • Excellent government ownership, with huge commitment of domestic resources
  • Seamless partnership of the government with WHO, Unicef and Rotary International
  • Identification of high-risk blocks and introduction of target activities
  • Focus on missed children through transit and migrant strategies

Can India replicate the model to deal with other health challenges?

Why not? I believe the legacy of polio eradication will not just be the end of a disease but much more.

Is there a possibility of reappearance of the disease in the country? What should India do to avoid such a challenge?

The polio virus is still in circulation in India’s immediate neighbours, so the threat of reappearance will always remain. No country is secure from the disease as long as polio virus exists anywhere in the world.

India regularly vaccinates its children and maintains a robust surveillance system. It has also issued a travel advisory for visitors from other counties. India has an emergency preparedness and response plan ready to tackle any virus detected in the country.

We are also strengthening routine immunisation, which includes vaccination against childhood diseases other than polio.

Why is India's achievement so important, given the fact that many developed and developing countries have already achieved the target?

The country’s burgeoning population combined with a weak health infrastructure, contaminated water and sanitation problems, migratory communities and diverse groups and faiths made it one of the most difficult regions for eradication of the disease.

During 2006-2009 when most part of the world was polio-free, India reported half of the world’s new cases. India’s polio story was viewed with contempt and often described as a pipedream. Today, India’s achievement is a huge victory for the global polio eradication campaign. A monumental challenge has been overcome. India’s triumph is expected to boost the fight in the endemic countries and motivate global community to support the goal—eradicate polio globally by 2018.


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Operational guide for pulse polio immunization in India

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