WHO to engage anti-polio India network against COVID-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it would activate its anti-polio network in India to help fight the country’s COVID-19 pandemic as the health ministry and the UN body firm up plans to leverage each other’s strengths for joint response against the virus.Welcoming their cooperation, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that such joint efforts would help defeat the pandemic, just like they fought and won the war against polio.The WHO said it will collaborate with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to leverage the strategies that helped the country eradicate polio to fight the pandemic. India eliminated polio in 2014.

“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 chief tweeted. As part of the strategy, WHO’s field-staff for the national polio mission will be deployed to boost surveillance and immunization against COVID-19.

The WHO chief praised 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 said.In a joint press release, the health minister said “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,” he added.WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Poonam Khetrapal Singh said that “it is now time to use all your experience, knowledge and skills, with the same rigor and discipline that you showed while monitoring polio activities, to support districts with surveillance, contact tracing, and containment activities.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, over two million people were infected and more than 137000 were killed globally by the virus.

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