India’s Success In Fighting Polio Shows What Country Is Capable Of With Proper Funding, Accountability

“India’s successful war on polio shows what can happen when its government sets clear policy goals backed with proper funding and real accountability,” journalist and author Dan Morrison writes in an opinion piece in the New York Times’ “Latitude” blog. He notes that “in the five days spanning Jan. 20 to 25, the Indian government administered polio vaccine to an estimated 172 million children — a number greater than the entire population of Russia — in an ongoing effort that has eliminated the disease” in the country. “The complexity of India’s polio project is ‘unprecedented in the world,’ said Anuradha Gupta, a top official at the health ministry who oversees the nationwide effort,” Morrison writes, and provides details of the drive carried out last month.

“In the two years that India finally drove out polio, encephalitis killed more than 1,000 children in Uttar Pradesh,” Morrison continues, adding, “The principle source of those infections was the same as that for polio: rotten sanitation.” He asks, “Is providing clean water and working sewers really more difficult than vaccinating hundreds of millions of children against a single devastating virus? Why is one achievable and not (so far) the other?” He concludes, “Here’s one possible clue. In the same period those children died of encephalitis, nearly a dozen state officials were charged with stealing an estimated $1.8 billion in health funds earmarked for rural areas — an amount five times greater than that spent by Indian taxpayers to eliminate polio in 2011 and 2012” (2/1).