WHO Joins Hands With India’s Polio Network to Fight COVID-19

WHO will work with India for strategies that helped the country eradicate polio to fight coronavirus.

Published16 Apr 2020, 06:00 AM IST
India
3 min read

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has welcomed the world health body’s cooperation with India to leverage strategies that helped the country win its war against polio into the response to COVID-19 outbreak, saying such joint efforts will help defeat the pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will work with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to leverage the strategies that helped the country eradicate polio to fight the pandemic.

The WHO’s national polio surveillance network will be engaged to strengthen COVID-19 surveillance and its field staff will continue to support immunisation and elimination of tuberculosis and other diseases.

“Great news: @MoHFW_INDIA & @WHOSEARO initiated a systematic engagement of @WHO's national polio surveillance network, and other field staff, for India's #COVID19 response, tapping into the best practices & resources that helped win its war against polio”, the WHO director-general tweeted, referring to India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia.

According to the Johns Hopkins University data, over 2 million people are infected by the virus and more than 136,000 people have died of the disease globally.

Ghebreyesus expressed gratitude to Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan for his leadership and collaboration with WHO. “Through these joint efforts we can defeat the #coronavirus and save lives. Together!”, he tweeted.

India eliminated polio in 2014. According to a WHO press release, Vardhan said in New Delhi that time and again the Government of India and WHO together have shown our ability, competence and prowess to the whole world. With our combined meticulous work, done with full sincerity and dedication, we were able to get rid of polio.

“All of you in the field IDSP (Integrated Disease Surveillance Project), state rapid response teams and WHO - are our surveillance corona warriors'. With your joint efforts we can defeat the coronavirus and save lives”, Vardhan added.

WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Poonam Khetrapal Singh said the National Polio Surveillance Project (WHO-NPSP) played a critical role in strengthening surveillance for polio that generated useful, timely and accurate data to guide policies, strategies and interventions until transmission of the poliovirus was interrupted in the country.

She adding that the other WHO field staff involved with elimination of tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases and hypertension control initiative were also significant resources.

Singh added that “it is now time to use all your experience, knowledge and skills, with the same rigour and discipline that you showed while monitoring polio activities, to support districts with surveillance, contact tracing and containment activities”.

The WHO release said strengths of the NPSP team surveillance, data management, monitoring and supervision, and responding to local situations and challenges will be utilized to supplement efforts of National Centre for Disease Control, IDSP and Indian Council of Medical Research to strengthen COVID-19 surveillance.

The NPSP team will also support in sharing information and best practices and help states and districts calibrate their response based on transmission scenarios and local capacities.

The WHO field staff will continue to support immunisation and surveillance and elimination of Tuberculosis and Neglected Tropical Diseases, Singh said, adding, disease outbreaks can negatively impact progress in a range of areas, from maternal and child mortality to vaccine-preventable diseases and other treatable conditions. India had been making stupendous progress in these areas and we cannot afford for India's remarkable progress to be set back or reversed.

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