It is three years since India last reported a case of polio. Patralekha Chatterjee reports on how the country appears to have finally managed to beat the disease. Despite a healthcare system beset by severe problems, India has ushered in the new year with an achievement to be proud of.
In 2009, India reported 741 polio cases, more than any other country in the world, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The last case was reported from the eastern state of West Bengal in 2011, when an 18-month-old girl was found to have contracted the disease.
The country faced unique challenges in eradicating polio.
Among them was the high population density and birth rate, poor sanitation, widespread diarrhea, inaccessible terrain and reluctance of a section of the population, notably members of the Muslim community in certain pockets, to accept the polio vaccine.
Nicole Deutsch, head of polio operations in India for UN children's charity Unicef, said: "Despite these obstacles, India proved to the world how to conquer this disease: through the strong commitment of the government, seamless partnership comprising the government, Rotary clubs, WHO and Unicef, and above all the tireless hard work of millions of front-line workers - vaccinators, social mobilisers and community and health workers - who continue to implement innovative strategies to rid India of polio,"
The introduction of bivalent oral polio vaccine in 2010 also helped India to battle the disease. Previously, India had been using a monovalent vaccine that protected only against type 1 poliovirus transmission, not type 3. which was causing repeated disease outbreaks.
But it was organisation that was key in enabling India to cover the last mile in its battle against polio.