THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

WHO celebrates India's triumph over polio

Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization, joined India's government and other distinguished guests on Tuesday to celebrate a polio-free India.

During an event held in New Delhi, India, Chan said that many critics thought the day would never come that India could be declared polio free. Despite a huge population, dense pockets of poverty, high birth rate, widespread diarrhea, poor sanitation, resistance to vaccination and difficult terrain, the determination of India won out against the deadly, crippling disease.

"After three years, we can say with certainty that the soil of this vast and densely populated country is now free of a virus that killed and crippled children for centuries," Chan said.

Chan recalled how in the 1970s, India was home to as many as 200,000 polio cases annually. India worked with international partners like the WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build a world-class surveillance system, motivate and supervise millions of vaccinators and independently monitor progress of the campaign.

"India has shown the world that there is no such thing as impossible," Chan said. "This is likely the greatest lesson, and the greatest inspiration for the rest of the world. India's leadership in polio eradication is widely appreciated and warmly welcomed, especially among the 194 Member States of WHO. The country has shared its experiences, best practices, lessons learned, and expert staff with the remaining endemic countries."

Chan said the January 13 news that India went three years without a polio case is a monumental achievement that deserves celebration.