Polio is the next likely candidate for disease eradication in the world and some of the best athletes participating at the London 2012 Olympics are helping to spread the word about Rotary’s campaign to rid the world of polio.
Indian Olympic athletes participating in the Rotary’s “This Close” campaign are more than a dozen members of India’s team, including members of the men’s boxing, men’s and women’s weightlifting, and men’s and women’s wrestling teams. Appealing to parents, wrestler Sushil Kumar, said, “In 1988, 500 children were getting affected by polio in India every day. Today, our country is reaching steadily toward eradication of polio. We need your help to win this fight.”
Vijender Singh, a member of the boxing team, said, “Polio vaccine can save a child from polio paralysis. Let us ensure that children are not paralyzed by giving them the vital drops. Other Olympic athletes participating in the Rotary’s “This Close” campaign include Olympic divers Tom Daley and Tonia Couch.
Deepak Kapur, Chairman, Rotary International’s India National Polio Plus Committee (INPPC), said, “Global health and the Olympics share a common ethos. With key athletes supporting the cause at the Olympics, the focus of world including the conflict-laden countries, will once again will be on the dreaded disease that is so close to being eradicated from the world.”
With no new polio cases being reported for more than a year, India’s experience of containing the dreaded virus has been hailed as the biggest public health achievement worldwide. There have been 96 cases of polio reported worldwide this year, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The countries that have never been free of the disease are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.
India was removed from WHO’s polio endemic list on 25 February this year after completing over a year without reporting any case of polio. Kapur said, “Reaching the ultimate goal of a polio-free world presents myriad challenges. As long as there is even a single polio-afflicted child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk.
After achieving the milestone of non-polio endemic nation in February this year, India needs to maintain the status for another two years to be certified polio-free by the World Health Organization. Import of polio from neighbouring countries and re-emergence of the disease are major threats to the campaign.