India 'polio-free', but 'not till it’s over everywhere'

Last Updated 10 March 2019, 20:05 IST

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy kickstarted a polio drive on Sunday, with a call to parents across the state to re-vaccinate children under the age of five.

“Because people in Pakistan and Afghanistan have neglected their children, resulting in a failure to eradicate polio, the government of Karnataka has initiated a programme to vaccinate 64,85,980 children,” he said.

In 2018, 33 cases of polio were reported in Afghanistan and Pakistan – up from 22 cases in 2017. Although India has been certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as being polio-free since 2014, health officials said that they are following a mantra of “it is not over, till it is over everywhere”.

A WHO official, on condition of anonymity, said that it is unclear when polio will be eradicated from the region, because the disease persists in those parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan where governmental control is limited.

According to the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Karnataka has set up 32,737 immunisation booths across the state for the polio drive, plus 51,972 teams, 1,03,944 “vaccinators,” 6,546 supervisors, 2,481 mobile teams and 4,300 transit teams.

“If parents are unable to take their children to hospitals or health centres for immunisation, health workers will carry out door-to-door visits,” Kumaraswamy said.

Dr Suresh Shastri of the Department of Health and Family Welfare explained the polio drive would immunise an estimated 92 to 95% of children under the age of five in the state on Sunday, with house-to-house visits taking target totals to 100% by Tuesday.

The vaccination drive, which is being conducted on a national scale, was organised by Rotary International in cooperation with the government.

‘No NREGS funds yet’

A day after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over aid for drought, the chief minister said the Union government has not released Rs 1,300 crore earmarked for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

Kumaraswamy said MGNREGS helps reduce the migration of farmers to urban areas.

(Published 10 March 2019, 19:04 IST)

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