Throughout India and around the world, Rotary clubs are celebrating a major milestone: India has gone three years without a new case of polio. The last reported case was a two-year-old girl in West Bengal on 13 January 2011.
To mark this historic triumph -- reached after a decades-long battle against polio -- Rotary clubs illuminated landmarks and iconic structures throughout the country with four simple but powerful words, "India is polio free."
The three-year achievement sets the stage for polio-free certification of the entire Southeast Asia region by the World Health Organization. The Indian government also plans to convene a polio summit in February to commemorate this victory in the global effort to eradicate polio.
The challenge now is to replicate India's success in neighboring Pakistan, one of three remaining polio-endemic countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Rotary leaders in India are working with their Pakistani counterparts to share best practices and lessons learned during India's successful anti-polio campaign. Rotary was particularly effective in obtaining the support of influential religious leaders in India's Islamic communities. Pakistani Rotary leaders are playing a similar role to counter rumors and misinformation about polio vaccinations that keep some Muslim parents from immunizing their children.
Meanwhile, National Immunization Days continue in both countries. During these large-scale drives, Rotary volunteers join health workers to vaccinate every child under age five against polio.
"We must now stop polio in Pakistan to both protect Pakistani children and to safeguard our success in India and other countries where we have beaten this terrible disease," says India PolioPlus Committee Chair Deepak Kapur. "Until polio is finally eradicated globally, all unvaccinated children will remain at risk of infection and paralysis, no matter where they live."
- Give to End Polio Now
- Read a blog post by former Rotary Foundation Trustee Ashok Mahajan on 20 years of fighting polio
- Read a New York Times interview with India PolioPlus Committee chair Deepak Kapur
- See a photo gallery of illuminated landmarks