UNICEF warns India against Polio risk as cases rise in Pakistan

UNICEF warns India against Polio risk as cases rise in Pakistan
New Delhi, Oct 27: "Polio virus doesn't need any visa to cross border," UNICEF today warned polio-free India as the number of cases of the paralysing disease reached an alarming high in Pakistan.

The UN agency's warning came months after World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India polio-free and Pakistan recently recorded its 200th case of polio, the highest case count in that country in more than a decade.

Meanwhile, Rotary today announced USD 44.7 million in grants to fight the virus worldwide, including USD 4.9 million to keep the disease from crossing India's borders. The funds will be used by UNICEF and WHO to support high quality immunisation in India. UNICEF will receive USD 3.5 million out of the USD 4.9 million grants to the country.

"Polio virus doesn't need any visa to cross border. We need to be very careful. Polio has been eradicated from India. It has been certified by WHO. So we must continue reaching out to every child especially in UP and Bihar...," UNICEF India Representative Louis-Georges Arsenault said here. India has offered Pakistan "full cooperation" for eradicating polio from its soil.

Union Minister Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had recently stressed that India was exposed to the risk of polio outbreak again as the disease was "just a bus ride away" due to its presence in Pakistan. "Until polio is eradicated everywhere, India remains at risk," Rotary's National PolioPlus Chair for India Deepak Kapur said.

Both Arsenault and Kapur were addressing a joint press conference here in which Rotary announced grants to fight the paralysing disease worldwide. There are only three countries in the world where the wild polio virus has never been stopped--Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The funding commitment from Rotary comes as India prepares to celebrate in January next year four years since its last case of polio. Kapur said to date, Rotary has contributed more than USD 1.3 billion to fight polio. 


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