The Gates Foundation and PATH are among the Greater Seattle-based organizations celebrating India’s newest milestone – after three years without any cases of polio developing in the country, India is being certified as officially polio-free, bringing the number of countries in the world where polio is considered endemic down to three.
Five years ago, India was home to approximately half of the world’s new polio cases, in part because of the country’s birth rate, population density, and the difficulty of traveling to rural areas for medical assistance; all of those made the country into a petri dish for polio. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GEPI), however, an initiative that includes as partners Rotary International, Unicef, and the Gates Foundation, among others, made India a top priority. That included sending over 2 million vaccinators to reach children in rural areas who had never received any sort of health service, and working at border crossings to vaccinate the millions of children who migrate throughout Central and Southeast Asia – one of the countries still on the list for polio is Pakistan, and Afghanistan even a few years ago had new cases of polio every year.
The success in achieving polio eradication in India has galvanised the global health community to commit to a polio-free world by 2018. The Gates Foundation and PATH are quite sure that this goal can be reached, particularly considering that when GEPI was formed in 1988, 125 countries had endemic wild polio outbreaks. There are 3 to go, and Greater Seattle will be working hard on this problem.