After success at home, Indian docs take battle against polio abroad

As India celebrates the success of having no new polio case over the past 19 months, Indian doctors are now taking their fight against the scourge to its strongest bastion.

A team of 25 Indian doctors and volunteers — a first-of-its kind single specialty unit — will fly to Nigeria's capital Abuja on Saturday night to conduct 400 polio corrective surgeries.

Nigeria is currently the global capital of polio. It reported as many as 110 cases this year and is, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, one of the world's three polio-endemic countries. Pakistan reported 56 cases in 2012, and Afghanistan 31.

The incidence of polio globally declined 99.8 per cent from 3,50,000 cases in over 125 endemic countries in 1988 to only 650 reported cases in 2011. India, which reported 741 cases in 2009 — more than any other country — is now no longer on the World Health Organisation's list of polio-endemic countries. No case of wild poliovirus has been reported in India since January 13, 2011.

"Health authorities worldwide are worried about the setback to immunisation efforts in polio-endemic countries. WHO has raised an alarm over deteriorating health indices in Nigeria, and called for urgent efforts to reverse the trend. In our small way we decided to respond to the challenge by sending a team of our doctors to help correct deformities related to polio, and create awareness of vaccination," Panvel-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr Girish Gune, a key Rotarian involved in the Indo-Nigerian Medical Mission programme, told The Indian Express.

Rotary International, which has around 1.2 million members in over 200 countries, has funded the Rs 50 lakh project. Indian doctors are carrying their own equipment to conduct 400 surgeries at two public hospitals inAbuja.

Dr A K Pandey from Ranchi, who is in the team of 19 doctors and six volunteers, said an effort would be made also to reach out to parents of polio-afflicted children.

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