President launches nationwide Pulse Polio Campaign for 2012

India has put in place an emergency preparedness and response plan to enforce its commitment to zero tolerance for polio in the country and any new polio case would be declared a public health emergency.

Rapid response teams have been formed in all the States and Union Territories to respond to any polio case. All States bordering the neighbouring countries have been put on alert and asked to strengthen surveillance for early detection of any imported polio case.

Speaking at the launch of a nationwide Pulse Polio Campaign for 2012 at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday, Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said special booths were established in the bordering areas including Wagah border and Attari railway station in Punjab and Munabao in Barmer district of Rajasthan, to ensure that all children under five years of age coming from across the border were given polio drops.

Mr. Azad said his Ministry had taken major steps to reach every child in the country, even in the remotest and hardest to reach areas to ensure that mobile and migratory populations were not left uncovered.

The coverage of children even in the most endemic States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has crossed 99 per cent. “This level of coverage is unprecedented, not witnessed anywhere in the world,” the Minister added. He hoped that efforts would be taken with the same degree of vigour for at least the next two years, so that India could be declared a polio-free country in January, 2014.

The campaign was launched by President Pratibha Patil who administered polio vaccine drops to eight children. The drive will cover more than 17 crore children under 5. Over 23 lakh volunteers will participate in this massive national effort and more than 1.5 lakh supervisors will monitor quality and coverage.

Pointing out that India was making history in its fight against polio, Mr. Azad said: “It is indeed a remarkable achievement that for the last one year, the country remained completely free from polio without witnessing even a single case. In the past, India had a rather large share of global polio cases and only two years ago in 2009, we accounted for half of the total polio cases in the world. Seen against this backdrop, the achievement of one full year of zero polio case is extremely impressive.''