New Delhi: To mark Indiaâ€™s landmark achievement of being certified polio-free, UNICEF on Sunday felicitated megastar Amitabh Bachchan who as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Polio, has played a critical role in mobilizing mass support for Indiaâ€™s polio immunisation campaign.
When polio cases peaked in India in 2002, with 1,556 cases being detected, Amitabh Bachchan was made brand ambassador for the Polio Eradication Campaign. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh accounted for the maximum number of cases for which resistance from communities was one of the reasons.
â€œInitially, we were not getting as many mothers and children as we wanted, to come to awareness camps. Then (ad guru) Piyush Pandey suggested that in my films I am known for speaking loudly, so why could I not talk in the same manner in the polio ads,â€ Bachchan told a gathering of polio workers.
When the ad was aired, he added, in places where one or two mothers would come, 150 started coming. â€œWhen women were asked why, they replied that AmitabhÂ jiÂ has become angry. We came because we donâ€™t want to anger him further.â€
Being asked whether he would lend the similar support for the polio eradication programme to Pakistan, he said, â€œhe would offer his services for humanity to every part of the world and Pakistan was no exception.â€
Sharing the dais, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan recalled that when he started this campaign as Delhiâ€™s Health Minister in 1994, he would tell medics: â€œFuture generations will not forgive you for being callous. Until a single case is reported anywhere in the world, no child is safe. We need to remain alert as 94 of the 123 cases last reported in the world are from (neighbouring) Pakistan.â€
Vardhan added that the success of the pulse polio eradication programme could be replicated to eradicate other communicable diseases like measles, tetanus, filaria and kala azar. â€œOur goal is the increase the Universal Immunisation Programmeâ€™s reach from 70% to 100%,â€ he stated.
Over 1000 men and women from UP and Bihar came together for the event presided by Harsh Vardhan, UNICEF India Representative, Louis Georges Arsenault and superstar Amitabh Bacchan.
The evening paid tribute to the Vaccinators and Mobilizers who worked tirelessly in the diverse and remote parts of the country, ensuring that every child under age of five was immunised.