Recently one of the biggest successes in the public health scenario in India has been the pulse polio program.
From Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan big names got behind this program and we marveled at our own intelligence. Often I would see schools children and NCC cadets carrying the vials to give two drops to infants. The program also found a mention in masala movies like Dabangg, where the protagonist Robinhood Pandey inquires why the heroines’s brother was struck by polio and that 2 drops could have saved him. A great example of how a public health program found its way into modern pop culture.
But recently a news report from Syria brought the focus back on the dangers of celebrating too early.
Polio is back and with a bang. Not in India but Syria.
A recent report from the WHO states that polio is back. For more on that read this NPR article.
One of the dangers of conflicts as they are happening in that part of the world is that normal processes are thrown out of gear. So what was a routine administration of 2 drops, has become as complicated as open heart surgery. Aid workers have been prevented from doing their job not only in Syria, but also in places like Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan.The net result is that cases are showing up in places like Italy which has received a fair share of immigrants from Syria. Also swamps in Israel and Egypt are showing strains of the virus.
Egyptian authorities not withstanding their own issues in the country, have gone on a war path to solve this problem. For more on their effort please see the embedded video.
We in India have to take care of the following
1) Not remove focus from the program just because of the initial successes. The battle has just begun and the war is far from over.
2) Monitor the situation in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan to ensure that there is no spread to India
3) Combine the current efforts on polio with anganwadi workers and other infant schemes so that we have more standardization across the public health schemes.
The results that we have achieved against polio are spectacular but the real victory is keeping polio out for ever…..