New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday officially certified India free of yaws, a chronic bacterial infection that mainly affects skin, bone and cartilage, and maternal and neonatal tetanus that affects the nervous system.
The official statement issued by the Union health ministry said that India is the first country to be officially acknowledged as being Yaws-free. Also, India was validated for Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination (MNTE) in April 2015, much ahed of the global target date of December 2015.
“It is a proud moment for India to have achieved these two momentous public health milestones,” said Union health minister JP Nadda, while receiving the official citation from WHO and UNICEF on Thursday evening.
“Following the success of polio eradication programme, these achievements reflect the dedication of the country towards achievement of health equity and universal health coverage,” he said.
Nadda thanked the healthcare workers across the country, saying it was possible due to the commitment and dedication of lakhs of them and also various stakeholders and concerted efforts of planners and policymakers.
India being yaws-free is also significant as India has achieved this important milestone in May this year much before the WHO global target year of 2020.
“India has shown the world that there is no such thing as impossible. These are likely the greatest lessons, and the greatest inspirations for the rest of the world,” he said.
The ministry plans to sustain the achievements by health system strengthening; high routine immunization coverage and promotion of institutional/clean delivery/clean cord practices and effective surveillance system.
The gains in keeping India free from preventable deaths continues with introduction of newer vaccines such as Rotavirus vaccine, Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), Adult Japanese Encephalitis and soon-to- be introduced Measles-Rubella in the public health programme of the country.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director WHO-SEARO congratulated India and said that these are achievements for entire humanity and not just India.
“It has been possible because of education and early treatment of vulnerable population,” she said.
“Lessons learned from these two huge public health milestones should guide other programmes as well. The achievements will not only improve the health of marginalized communities, but will also enhance their socio-economic status and contribute to India’s wider development,” she said.
The elimination of Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus as a public health problem means that in India the annual rate of Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus is now less than 1 per 1000 live births.