India, Afghan cricketers raise awareness about polio
Colombo: With an aim to increase awareness about polio among parents of the region, Indian cricket stars Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh and Rohit Sharma, on Tuesday met with Afghanistan captain Nowroz Mangal and few of his team-mates here and exchanged bats signed by both the sides.
Apart from Mangal, the other Afghanistan players who were part of the noble cause were Mohammad Shahzad, Karim Sadeq and Mohammad Ashghar Stanikzai.
The bats were exchanged as symbols of both countries` commitment to end polio once and for all. On the teams` return to their home countries, UNICEF will present the bats to the Governments of Afghanistan and India to underline cricket`s support in the fight against polio.
During the India vs Afghanistan clash on Wednesday, UNICEF, with the support of the ICC, will display polio eradication messages on the electronic advertising boards and on the electronic scoreboard.
The messages, in English, Hindi and Pashto, will express support for Afghanistan`s fight against polio and call on Afghan parents, in the local Pashto language, to immunize their children against polio, a statement from UNICEF said.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the only three remaining countries yet to stop poliovirus transmission.
India became polio free in January 2011 and is now committed to supporting Pakistan and Afghanistan in eradicating the virus across South Asia.
During the occasion, Indian opener Sehwag, a long-time supporter of the polio eradication effort, said: "Stopping polio in India was like playing a long innings, it took a lot of focus and effort, but India has proven that this disease can be stopped everywhere in the world, once and for all.
"We support Afghanistan and Pakistan in their fight against this disease, so that soon no child in the region is ever needlessly paralysed by polio again."