By Deepak Kapur, chair of the India National PolioPlus Committee and member of the Rotary Club of Delhi South, India
One year ago today, on 13 January 2011, the last case of polio was reported in India in the state of West Bengal. Rotary and our polio eradication partners quickly went into action, conducting a mop-up immunization round within six days of the report to stop further transmission.
India’s polio eradication campaign continued in this vein throughout 2011. Rotary and the other polio eradication partners remained vigilant, conducting constant reviews and creating new strategies. With the help of more than 100,000 Rotarians across India, we were able to implement an effective, result-oriented campaign.
We built on the momentum by engaging both decision-makers and health workers on the ground. We advocated with political leaders and provided vital support – sometimes in emergency situations – by reaching out to communities and raising funds. As each week passed without any incidence of polio, motivation grew not only in the endemic states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but also in polio-free regions of India.
We grew even more confident when we hit a significant milestone: making it through the peak season (monsoon) of virus transmission without any incidence of polio in the country.
Now that one year has passed without any new polio cases, the campaign is focusing on virus importation from other polio-endemic countries.
The success of the polio eradication campaign has changed the way of thinking in Indian society and government. This effort will certainly lead to similar health programs in areas that fail to achieve basic global health standards.
I am very hopeful that at this time next year, India will be celebrating its second year of being polio-free.