India being declared ‘polio-free’ by the World Health Organisation is a “landmark achievement” and it should now assist countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan in their fight against this disease by improving their health systems and infrastructure, President Pranab Mukherjee has said.

The President was inaugurating Polio Free Conclave 2014, organised by the Rotary International here on Saturday.

“The unique challenge in India was the sheer number of people combined with the difficult terrain in many States. It was possible only because of the unparalleled dedication of all concerned and the relentless efforts put in by workers, doctors, activists and various stakeholders, including parents of children,” he said.

Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that India was under threat as long as polio virus survived anywhere in the world. “We must be vigilant. There is need for watchfulness and preparedness so that there is no recurrence of this disease.”

He said that agencies such as the Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped with material resources and best practices to wipe out this crippling disease. Initiative was taken up at several levels to spread awareness, provide prompt medical attention and administer the polio vaccine.

The President presented mementos of appreciation and recognition to the former Health and Family Welfare Minister, A. Ramadoss, and present Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Mr. Azad credited the achievement to the decision to introduce the new bivalent polio vaccine, which was indigenously developed for the first time, aggressive immunisation and micro block level planning covering the most endemic areas.

He said strong political will at the highest levels that ensured flow of required financial resources and deployment of huge manpower, constant monitoring and maintaining the supply chains were some of the other factors.

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