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India’s Success Against Polio Is Promising Step In Defeating Disease Worldwide

“That India is free of wild polio today is a testament to the commitment of the Indian government,” which “invested more than $1 billion over the last decade and collaborated with community leaders, health workers, businesses, and parents,” as well as governments, non-governmental organizations, and multilateral agencies, to fight the disease, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes in a Foreign Affairs opinion piece. “The victory over the disease in India has saved millions of lives from disability and death. And although the world must remain vigilant against polio to prevent its resurgence, India’s success will gradually allow the nation to focus resources and experience on [other] diseases and initiatives,” she states.

“But challenges remain. Currently, there are three polio-endemic countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. And three other countries that were once polio-free — Angola, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — have seen a return of the virus in recent years,” Sebelius continues, noting that “the WHO’s executive board [in May] will ask its member countries’ ministers of health to declare the upsurge a global public health emergency that requires urgent, additional measures.” She discusses U.S. efforts to help fight the disease, saying “agencies across the U.S. government will continue working with partners around the world to implement mass polio vaccination campaigns.” Sebelius concludes, “Eradicating polio not only means saving countless children and families and tens of billions of dollars in treatment and care, it also represents new opportunity and growth for entire communities and countries. When one nation eradicates polio, it is a victory for the entire world” (3/28).