NEW DELHI: India, which has been polio-free for over a year now, was today taken off the list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organisation.
This announcement was made by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at the polio summit 2012 here in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Azad said he has received a letter this morning stating that the "WHO has taken India's name off the list of polio endemic countries in view of the remarkable progress that we have made during the past one year."
There were only four countries in the WHO endemic list, including Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.
After being removed from the list, India will have to remain polio free for the next two years to achieve the polio-free status with concerted efforts and an emergency preparedness and response plan, WHO representative in India Natela Menabde said.
The Prime Minister, while lauding the achievement, said the real credit goes to 23 lakh volunteers who repeatedly vaccinated children even in the most remote areas.
He said the success of the effort shows that "team work pays".
Singh said, "This gives us hope that we can finally eradicate polio not only from India but from the face of the earth." .
Menabde said it was a major public health achievement globally.
She said it is not just an achievement for India but a major progress for global polio eradication.
Though many countries have achieved this goal, every country is still under the threat of polio as long as the virus existed, she warned.
Countries have to keep administering vaccination and keep the immunity level of children high, besides stepping up surveillance to ensure polio virus does not enter the country again.
For the first time since November 2010, most of the environmental samples tested to know if the polio virus is circulating in the air, have been found to be negative.