|© UNICEF India/2007/Matta|
|Cricketer from Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar, immunizes a young child during the launch of the Bowl Out Polio campaign in New Delhi, India.|
By Anupam Srivastava
NEW DELHI, India, 10 December 2007 – Recently in New Delhi, children received a welcome surprise as top players from India and Pakistan’s cricket teams joined with health workers to bring attention to an ongoing polio eradication campaign called 'Bowl Out Polio'.
“No matter what I do, I always have time for children and for a cause such as this,” said cricketer from Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar, who is widely recognized as the fastest bowler in the world.
Also on hand to help immunize children were Shoaib Malik, cricketer from Pakistan and Anil Kumble, of India. The players spent time talking and laughing with the youths. UNICEF India Representative Gianni Murzi congratulated both teams, noting that with their support, India and Pakistan might soon see the end of polio.
Supporting existing efforts
The 'Bowl Out Polio' campaign was started in India in 2003 by Rotary International, UNICEF and WHO, along with support from the Government of India. The campaign supports existing government efforts to protect children through special drives known as the National Immunisation Days. A more localized campaign called Sub-National Immunisation Days concentrates on parts of India which are especially vulnerable to polio, particularly the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
India and Pakistan are among the last remaining polio endemic countries in the world, including Nigeria and Afghanistan.
'Bowling out polio'
The recent cricket series between India and Pakistan was closely followed by millions of people in both countries. Players saw it as a great opportunity to drive home the message that polio should be eradicated.
Showing their support for 'Bowl Out Polio', cricketers have helped immunize children, campaigned during special events and made statements on television during cricket matches.
Last month, Indian cricketer R.P. Singh received a special award from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Sushri Mayawati after a special one-day match between Indian and Pakistan.
“We want every parent and everyone associated with the polio programme to do their best, too. We want Uttar Pradesh to bowl out polio,” Mr. Singh said after accepting his award.
UNICEF’s work on Polio eradication