Indian Olympic Athletes help Promote Polio Eradication
Boxer Vijender Singh and Wrestler Sushil Kumar Take the Lead
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.”
And 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.
Rotary International said that after 25 years of hard work, a campaign involving themselves and their partners is on the brink of wiping out the crippling disease, but a “strong push” is needed now to root it out once and for all.
Deepak Kapur, Chairman, Rotary International’s India National PolioPlus 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. Rotary’s commitment to end polio represented the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative ever undertaken.
Rotary International has so far invested USD 1 billion (Rs. 5000 crores) globally of which USD 159 million (Rs. 795 crores) have been spent in India alone. In addition to Rotary’s fundraising efforts, over 1 lakh Indian Rotary volunteers helped organize national immunization days, staffed health stations and administered drops to children.
Rotary International is the spearheading partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative comprising of WHO, UNICEF, CDC and Rotary. It consists of 33,976 clubs and 1.2 million members in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.
Polio that held the world to ransom in the 1950's and 1960's has been eliminated with those two tiny drops of oral polio vaccine. 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 Added Mr Kapur, “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 reemergence of the disease are major threats to the campaign and a key priority area for the stakeholders going ahead.