Mrs Ban Soon-taek, wife of Mr Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General and Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India felicitated the state officials for their role in polio eradication at this special event.
The special celebration was held in the august presence of Mr Nitinbhai Patel, Minister of Health; Mr Shankarbhai Chaudhary, Minister of State for Health; Mrs Ban Soon-taek; Shri Anil Mukim, Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Gujarat; Shri J. P. Gupta, Commissioner, Health & Family Welfare, Gujarat; Mr Louis Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative to India; Dr Pradeep Haldar, Deputy Commissioner, Immunization, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India and and senior officials from Gujarat government and WHO India, partner agencies as well as ASHA and ANM representatives.
Speaking on the occasion, Mrs Ban Soon-taek said, “The achievement of a polio-free status by Gujarat, India and all countries of the South East Asian Region of WHO is indeed an important milestone."
She congratulated the national, state and local governments for their strong will and painstaking efforts to drive out polio.
"I also commend the tireless efforts of health workers who had to travel long distances to ensure that every child received the oral polio vaccine – not once but multiple times in a year and for many, many years," Mrs Ban Soon-taek added.
Thanking WHO for this special honour, Mr Nitinbhai Patel, Health Minister, Government of Gujarat said, "For Gujarat, every child is precious and we will further step up our efforts to secure the health and well-being of every child in the state," he said. "We are also working on further strengthening the health system for health and equity in the state," he added.
Congratulating the government of Gujarat and the people of the state for their role in polio eradication, Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India highlighted that Gujarat became polio-free much early, in 2007 itself, with its stupendous and dedicated efforts. It was an important milestone in India’s war against polio.
“India’s fight against polio exemplifies the spirit and determination of its people and is an embodiment of dedication, innovation and synergy. India is polio-free due to the painstaking efforts of each one of you present here. You have not just created history but gifted an entire generation of this country a life free of polio,” she added.
In her address, Dr Menabde underscored that India’s success against polio has many lessons, which are being replicated by ongoing health programmes in India as also by polio-affected countries for protecting children from other vaccine preventable diseases.
“WHO is fully committed to protecting all children from other vaccine preventable diseases. The existing polio network is being involved to intensify routine immunization, support measles elimination and strengthen the health system so that people are able to access services of good quality without suffering financial hardship when paying for them,” she said.