Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday expressed anguish over spurt in polio cases in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and told Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad to take effective steps to eradicate the disease.
Singh’s directive came at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs that cleared spending of Rs 3,203 crore (Rs 32 billion) over the next three years to wipe out incidence of polio.
Hopes of eradicating polio had brightened in 2005 when only 66 cases were reported. But a polio outbreak in Western UP and Bihar the next year pushed the number of new cases to 676 in 2006, 874 in 2007 and 559 in 2008.
One in every four of the 830 polio cases reported globally this year was in India.
Pulse Polio Immunisation, started in 1995-96, and is the largest public health intervention ever undertaken anywhere in the world.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said the new strategy focuses on UP and Bihar.
Chidambaram – who made public the Prime Minister’s directive to the health ministry to pay special attention to polio immunization in these two states — said gaps in the delivery machinery seemed to have resulted in the outbreak.
“We have to eliminate it. We cannot have children affected by polio when the medicine is there,” he said.
Under the scheme, there will be two national immunization days targeting 172 million children in the 0-5 age group in this financial year and six sub-national immunization days aimed at 69 million children. Besides, 16 mop-up rounds would be undertaken in districts where polio cases have been reported, covering 7.5 million children.