Skip to main content

Global health success: India certified free of polio

March 27, 2014 -- Updated 1536 GMT (2336 HKT)
Polio can lead to paralyisis of the arms and legs. An Indian polio patient lies on a bed during treatment in New Delhi, India in January 2014. Polio can lead to paralyisis of the arms and legs. An Indian polio patient lies on a bed during treatment in New Delhi, India in January 2014.
HIDE CAPTION
India's fight against polio
India's fight against polio
India's fight against polio
India's fight against polio
India's fight against polio
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • India's last polio case reported in January 13, 2011
  • India had been considered one of the hardest places to end polio
  • World Health Organization issues official certification Thursday

(CNN) -- India has been certified polio-free by the World Health Organization after going three years without an endemic case of polio. The eradication of polio in India is heralded as one of the biggest achievements in global health efforts.

The polio-free certification by the Regional Certification Commission came Thursday, along with a proclamation that Southeast Asia is free of the disease.

Just five years ago, India was home to nearly half the global polio cases and considered one of the most technically difficult places to eradicate the disease, because of sanitation challenges and high-density population.

India's last case was reported in a young girl paralyzed by polio in West Bengal in January 2011.

Could she be India's last polio patient?
Polio rises from the grave

Meet the last person to have polio in India

So how did the second most populous country in the world, considered the hardest place to end polio, become free of the disease?

Health workers determined that the children of migrants or those growing up in difficult-to-reach areas were not getting access to vaccines. So they deployed immunization efforts to reach the most vulnerable, according to UNICEF.

India launched a massive effort involving a surveillance network and almost 2.3 million vaccine administrators, who identified communities falling through the cracks.

To counter rumors and misgivings about the vaccine, social mobilizers, religious leaders and parents were included to increase understanding about immunizations.

They also bolstered communication and outreach efforts that often included Bollywood celebrities and cricket players. The efforts combined government, various U.N. agencies as well as philanthropic organizations.

The highly infectious viral disease primarily affects young children and could lead to paralysis and death. It can be prevented through immunization, but there is no cure.

The incidence of the disease has dropped by more than 99% since 1988. It remains endemic in three countries -- Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan -- down from more than 125 countries in 1988.

Vaccinating children against polio can be a deadly job

Polio workers in those countries have been facing violence as some militant groups have begun targeting anti-polio campaigns.

In December, the WHO began vaccination efforts to reach more than 23 million children across the Middle East following an outbreak of the disease in Syria.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0916 GMT (1716 HKT)
Branded an "extremist" by China's state-run media, Joshua Wong isn't even old enough to drive.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0655 GMT (1455 HKT)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised political pundits with his rapid rise to power. CNN meets the man behind the enigma.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
British journalist John Cantlie hadn't been seen in nearly two years. Now, he's the latest hostage to be paraded out by ISIS.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1049 GMT (1849 HKT)
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Alibaba's IPO is unlike anything investors have ever seen and could threaten other online retailers. Maggie Lake reports.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0130 GMT (0930 HKT)
Indian PM Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1444 GMT (2244 HKT)
 Tennis Player Li Na attends the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party as guests enjoy Ciroc Vodka presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens on June 19, 2014 in London,
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT