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Harsh Vardhan offers full cooperation to Pakistan to fight polio

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : October 25, 2014 1:40 PM IST

India has set a great example in eradicating polio from the country. On the other hand, our neighbouring country Pakistan is still struggling to do so. Therefore, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has offered Pakistan full cooperation in eradicating polio from that country. Pakistan at present accounts for 85 percent of the world's polio cases.

On the occasion of World Polio Day, Harsh Vardhan welcomed Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's recent adoption of a 'National Emergency Action Plan-2014' on the disease.

Harsh Vardhan, in a statement, said: 'I have been through the plan and find that the script is perfect. Pakistan has resolved to set up monitoring cells at the grassroots level. They are also talking of involving social groups, a strategy which worked wonderfully in India.'

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Recalling the joint statement issued at the end of the foreign minister-level talks in September 2012, he pointed out that the two countries had already talked of institutionalising cooperation on polio eradication through a joint working group.

However, there was no significant progress on this front.

India achieved full freedom from polio in January 2014, as not a single new case had been detected since January 2011.

The health minster said: 'This year's World Polio Day is an emotional experience for me because it is the first to be observed since we became a polio-free nation. When I launched the first Pulse Polio drive in Delhi in 1994, this seemed an impossible dream.'

Observing that in the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan, polio is just a bus ride away, he said that special measures have been put in place at border crossings.

These include vaccination facilities for travellers both ways to Pakistan and having emergency response plans in place along with teams to execute them, he added.

Here are facts about India s journey to being a polio-free country:

India had the most number of polio cases

According to the WHO, India accounted for 40,000 polio cases in 1980s and even in 2002, only UP accounted for 2/3rd of the world s polio cases. While polio was eradicated in the Americas by 1991, Europe by 1998 and by 2011 only 44 cases were reported worldwide, mostly in Pakistan, India hasn t reported a new case since 2011. Read what Pakistan can learn from India about polio eradication

It was the largest PPP initiative in the world

The polio eradication movement was a joint effort between the Indian government, WHO, Rotary, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Polio Initiative and various other NGOs. It involved around two million staff who vaccinated around 170 million throughout the country on two dates per year, to finally help wipe out the disease.

Celebrities gave the campaign a voice

The government s massive campaign was called Do Boond Zindagi Ki pulse polio campaign and celebrities played a major part in it including Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar and even Jackie Shroff (whose blooper from a 1998 campaign went viral in 2012). Amitabh participated in numerous campaigns shouting at people Sharm aani chaahiye humein! (We should be ashamed) . These campaigns went a long way in educating people about polio, particularly those from lower socio-economic groups. Read how proud Big B was to contribute to polio eradication.

Photo source: Getty images

With inputs from IANS

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