Immunisation push propels India towards victory in war against polio | World news | The Guardian
Moradabad has long been the centre of one of the most stubborn concentrations of polio in India.
The disease is passed on by person-to-person contact and, with Moradabad’s poor inhabitants frequently travelling far across the country in search of work, outbreaks elsewhere have often been traced back to the city.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) stipulates that three years must pass without any cases of polio occurring before a region can be declared polio-free.
In India, a mass vaccination campaign involving more than a million volunteers reduced cases nationally by 94% between 2009 and 2010, from 741 to 42, and down to the single case last year.
The success is due to a combination of highly motivated local workers, philanthropy, the involvement of international health bodies and the sometimes inefficient but nonetheless essential support of local government.
Equally important in overcoming the last bastions of the disease, as in many parts of the world, has been the consent of local religious figures.
Over the past decade one of the biggest obstacles to polio eradication in India, as in Pakistan and Nigeria, has been the resistance of poor, largely illiterate Muslim communities such as those in and around Moradabad.
Even as the first campaigns got underway in the area in the late 1990s, local clerics began telling congregations that the vaccinations were part of a government plan, backed by the west, to make Muslim women infertile.