Opening of the Sub-National Immunization Days (SNIDs)

Lucknow, India
5 April 2003

Honourable Ministers, Distinguishes Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to be invited today to help launch this latest immunization campaign to protect the children of India against the poliovirus. This is an important step in achieving our common goal of eradicating polio.

Today’s Sub-National Immunization activities here in Uttar Pradesh are a direct response to a recent rise in cases in this region.

Recently, after much success in polio eradication across India in previous years, the poliovirus re-emerged, and paralyzed hundreds of children who were not sufficiently immunized. This outbreak was particularly powerful here in Uttar Pradesh. So powerful, in fact, that nearly two-thirds of all new polio cases across the world are here in Uttar Pradesh. We are today at the epicentre of the world’s polio transmission.

When we began polio eradication activities around the globe in 1988, over 350 000 children were paralyzed by polio, across more than 125 countries. Last year, fewer than 2000 children were paralyzed, in only 7 countries. That is a more than 99 per cent reduction.

The underlying success of the global polio eradication effort has been the human resolve to rid the world of a completely preventable disease. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • More than 20 million volunteers and healthworkers have been involved in this initiative –over one million here in India alone.
  • Almost 2 billion children across the world have been immunized against polio.
  • Last year alone, over half a billion children were protected against this crippling virus. One child at a time.
  • Here in India, you have immunized over 160 million children over just a few days – a public health campaign of unprecedented scale.

It is this tremendous resolve which is demonstrated here today.

Beginning today, tens of thousands of volunteers and healthworkers will fan out systematically across a number of states, including Bijar, Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and - of course - Uttar Pradesh.

Their aim is very clear: to find every single child under the age of five years, and vaccinate them against polio. This massive logistical undertaking can succeed thanks to the tireless efforts and commitment of the people of India, the Government of India, and of Uttar Pradesh.

It will pay great dividends: by next Saturday when this campaign finishes, if each and every child in every community is reached, 80 million children will be immunized, and we will be one important step closer to a polio-free India, and a polio-free world.

This campaign is already the third polio eradication activity in India this year. In January and February, nation wide rounds reached over 160 million children each time. Further rounds will be held in June, September and November, with a similar number of activities needed in 2004 to stamp out polio.

Chief Minister – due to the number of cases in this country, India is the number one priority for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Your commitment is helping to ensure all sectors of your Government and community are mobilized towards our common goal. These campaigns are precisely the response needed to combat the polio outbreak.

We have 15 years of experience in polio eradication, and the World Health Organization stands firmly behind the feasibility of attaining this historic goal. We have the tools and we have the strategies. These have worked to eliminate polio from almost every country in the world. Now we must work towards the highest quality immunization and surveillance to eliminate polio from the remaining 7 infected countries, including India.

Chief Minister, you can count on WHO’s support in this endeavour to the very end. I wish you all the best in these SNIDs, and in the immunization activities to follow.

Thank you.