THE eradication of infection polio in India is proof that the disease could one day become a thing of the past if the entire community plays a part, one of Yorkshire’s MPs has claimed.
On a trip to a nomadic region of the country near Agra, famous for the Taj Mahal, Andrea Jenkyns met with doctors and politicians from across the world to learn how the World Health Organisation and Unicef made India polio-free in 2014.
The Conservative representative for Morley and Outwood said: “A lot of people never expected India to eradicate polio because of the size of the population, its nomadic community and a tremendous amount of poverty.
“What was so remarkable is how India has eradicated it. They got community leaders to take on responsibility for 500 households each. They also got imams involved and cricket stars backing it.
“It’s amazing to think the last time something was eradicated to this magnitude was smallpox in the 1970s.”
The trip was organised by the global anti-poverty charity, Results UK, and Ms Jenkyns was asked to attend due to her long-standing interest in health and past campaigns with the Rotary club on polio in partnership with the Bill Gates Foundation.
India remains at a slight risk due to its close proximity to Afghanistan and Pakistan - the last two countries in the world where the infection is active.
However, the Indian strategy of using local leaders to keep records of those vaccinated was deemed so good that experts were sent to West Africa to try and set up community networks following the Ebola outbreak.
Ms Jenkyns, who sits on the Health Select Committee, is now in early talks with Unicef of how her Handz campaign, which encourages hand washing, could be adopted in India and Pakistan.
She would like to see UK schools twin with those in south Asia to spread the message that regular hand washing helps curb infection.