New Delhi: India, which has been polio-free for over a year now, was today taken off the list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organisation.
This announcement was made by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at the polio summit 2012 here in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Azad said he has received a letter this morning stating that the "WHO has taken India`s name off the list of polio endemic countries in view of the remarkable progress that we have made during the past one year."
There were only four countries in the WHO endemic list, including Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.
After being removed from the list, India will have to remain polio free for the next two years to achieve the polio-free status with concerted efforts and an emergency preparedness and response plan, WHO representative in India Natela Menabde said.
The Prime Minister, while lauding the achievement, said the real credit goes to 23 lakh volunteers who repeatedly vaccinated children even in the most remote areas.
He said the success of the effort shows that "team work pays".
Singh said, "This gives us hope that we can finally eradicate polio not only from India but from the face of the earth."
Menabde said it was a major public health achievement globally.
She said it is not just an achievement for India but a major progress for global polio eradication.
Though many countries have achieved this goal, every country is still under the threat of polio as long as the virus existed, she warned.
Countries have to keep administering vaccination and keep the immunity level of children high, besides stepping up surveillance to ensure polio virus does not enter the country again.
For the first time since November 2010, most of the environmental samples tested to know if the polio virus is circulating in the air, have been found to be negative.
Earlier, WHO`s Assistant Director-General (Polio) Bruce Aylward, delivered the WHO Director General Margaret Chan`s letter to India, which states, "WHO will remove India from the list of endemic countries with polio virus."
Speaking at the Polio Summit, Aylward said "it is an incredible achievement" which has come about due to the perseverance of Indian government and its people.
"India`s success has inspired the world," he said, adding that, India remains at a "high risk" of importation of the polio virus and and it needs to be even more vigilant against it.
"India has given a great gift to protect the children from the horrific virus and it needs to keep vigilant. It is a precious gift, protect it," Aylward said.
He also expressed concern over the upsurge of polio cases in Pakistan and Nigeria in the last six months and urged the world community to build on from here.
The WHO official also stressed on evolving multiple strategies to focus on missed children and sought India`s support.
He also expressed concern over the importation outbreak of polio in China`s Xinjiang province, saying the virus sequencing found in it originated in Pakistan.
Among others who also spoke at the Summit included Pakistan`s Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Hazar Khan Bijrani, who said Pakistan will follow in the
footsteps of India in eradicating polio.
Also present at the Summit were Nepal`s Minister of Health and Population Rajendra Mahato and Sri Lanka`s deputy minister of Health Lalith Dissanayaka, besides India`s
Ministers of State for Health Sudip Bandyopadhyay and S Gandhuselvan, Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee and Health Secretary P K Pradhan.