Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has described India's accomplishment in eradicating polio as the "most impressive global health success" he has ever seen.
In an essay titled 'What I Learned in the Fight Against Polio', the billionaire philanthropist lauds the extensive work undertaken in India by the "army" of more than two million vaccinators, who covered the length and breadth of the country in the effort to ensure every child is vaccinated against the disease.
"Indeed, India's accomplishment in eradicating polio is the most impressive global health success I've ever seen," Gates said in the essay adapted from his contribution to 'Reimagining India: Unlocking the Potential of Asia's Next Superpower' edited by McKinsey and published online in the Wall Street Journal.
"India's success offers a script for winning some of the world's most difficult battles in every area of human welfare," he added. Gates attributed India's success in eradicating polio to the "crucial extra step" of enlisting support of the full sweep of Indian society, including health workers, ordinary citizens and some of the poorest people in the most impoverished regions of the country.
"I didn't know nearly as much about India as I do now. I saw India's obvious talent and energy, but I missed its hidden strength the rich, the powerful and the poor working together toward a common goal," he added.
India has been polio-free for more than two years now but Gates said the accomplishments of India's vaccinators does not end with the eradication of polio alone.
"Now that they have found India's children, they can bring them and their families other vaccines, clean water, education, advice on maternal and child health, and support for agriculture all the things that people need to live healthy and productive lives," he said.
Sending a caution note, Gates said the fight to end polio is not over, "not even in India. "New polio cases emerging in the Horn of Africa and Syria underscore the importance of maintaining funding and commitment to eradicate the disease globally within six years," he said.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began working in India a decade ago, when the Microsoft co-founder said many feared the country would become a flashpoint for HIV/AIDS.
"Melinda and I have seen many examples of India's poor making dramatic contributions. Experts predicted that polio would be eliminated in every other country before it was eliminated in India," Gates said in the essay.
But nowhere has this power been demonstrated