Washington: Appreciating India for its polio eradication efforts, the United Nations, leading world organizations, including the Bill and Milinda Gates Foundation celebrated India's first polio free year and termed it as a major achievement in their fight against this dreaded disease.    

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan, termed it as the "greatest public health achievement" of India, the Bill Gates, of Bill and Milinda Gates Foundation described it as a major milestone in the global fight against polio.
   
"This is a major milestone in the global fight against polio. Children in India are now protected against this debilitating, but preventable disease, bringing us one step closer to saving and improving the lives of all children," Gates said.
   
Gates in particular congratulated the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, the Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal on this achievement.
   
This success is the result of Indian Government's hard work and great partnerships with Rotary International, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, WHO and UNICEF as well as millions of volunteers, health workers and community leaders, said the Seattle-based foundation.
   
Celebrating the occasion, the World Health Organisation said, if all pending samples for the virus test negative, India – once regarded as the world's epicentre for polio – will become free of the disease for the first time in its history, reducing the number of polio-endemic countries to three: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
   
"India's success is arguably its greatest public health achievement and has provided a global opportunity to push for the end of polio," WHO Director General, Margaret Chan said.
   
UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake attributed India's remarkable progress to strong leadership at a national and state level, which pushed for the launch of a comprehensive polio eradication programme that enabled very poor and populous states to have high immunization coverage.
   
"India's achievement is proof positive that we can eradicate polio even in the most challenging environments – in fact, it is only by targeting these areas that we can defeat this evil disease," Lake said.

(Agencies)