India's Rs 12,000-crore pulse polio programme has finally shown results with the country being free of polio for one year for the first time ever. India's last polio case was detected in a two-year-old girl in Panchla block of Howrah, West Bengal, on January 13, 2011.
Globally, 620 cases were reported in 16 countries in 2011, with Pakistan reporting 189 cases. Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, polio cases have dropped by 99%-from 350,000 children paralysed or killed annually in 125 countries in 1988 to 620 cases reported in 16 countries in 2011. In 2006, the number of polio-endemic countries (where wild poliovirus prospers and infects) was reduced to four--India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.In 2010, India reported 42 cases, the lowest ever since 66 in 2005. The worst year was 2009, when India topped the polio charts, reporting almost half-46% or 741 cases -of the global total of 1,604 cases.
"We are excited and hopeful, at the same time, vigilant and alert, as we need to ensure there are no case of polio infection over three consecutive years for India to be declared polio-eradicated," said union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
India has been working in close partnership with international agencies-technical support from the WHO, communication by UNICEF and advocacy by Rotary International.
Each national pulse polio immunisation round involves 24 lakh vaccinators visiting over 20 crore homes to vaccinate 17.2 crore children under the age of five years. Over 50 lakh children are immunised during each round in UP, Bihar and Mumbai alone. The result was no polio in UP since April 2010 and in Bihar since September 2010.
Experts, however, say it is still a bit premature to celebrate. "High-quality immunisation has to be maintained to guard against re-importation of wild poliovirus from Pakistan, China and Afghanistan, which had polio outbreaks in 2011."