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Moradabad celebrates win against Polio with Hockey

© UNICEF/Avinash Sinha/2008
Former Indian hockey captain Dhanraj Pillai signs a pledge for eradicating polio

Daya Shankar and Anupam Srivastava

Moradabad: It was not only time for celebration but also time for re-dedication to the cause of polio eradication as former hockey Olympians Zafar Iqbal and Dhanraj Pillai, among others, signed a pledge for polio eradication. The pledge was signed after an exhibition match on the theme “Hum phir jeetenge” (we will win again), which was held as a build up to the Beijing Olympics. It found an immediate resonance with the polio programme that is striving to sustain its victory in controlling Type 1 polio virus in Moradabad. “We have to win both matches to make India proud,” said Moradabad District Magistrate Amit Kumar Ghosh.

The mood in Moradabad is upbeat and is energising the efforts in eradicating polio from a district which was said to be at the “epicentre” of the polio virus outbreak in 2006. Moradabad had 52 Type 1 cases in 2006. With an aggressive immunisation strategy that focussed on the Type 1 virus, Moradabad succeeded in reducing virus transmission and reported its last Type 1 polio case in September 2006. In 2007, it remained free of the Type 1 virus. This year the district has one Type 3 case and still not a single Type 1 case. The hockey match was played on the last day of the polio round and the players while making a case for India’s victory in the Olympics also wished success to Moradabad to make it completely polio free.

© UNICEF/Avinash Sinha/2008
Schoolchildren wearing sun-visors with polio messages participate in a march in Moradabad before the hockey match involving former Olympians. The players pledged to eradicate polio.

The day was marked by a rally of more than 2,000 school children wearing sun-visors that carried the message of polio eradication. The players – more than 20 Olympians to constitute the two sides that would play against each other – participated in a march to the Sonakpur Stadium.

The stadium also sported the polio banners in the most strategic locations and as the match was played in the stadium packed to capacity, the day went to hockey as well as polio. With the match over, the players signed the pledge card amid cheers from the spectators. The pledge card read, “it is the right of each child to be free of polio and to play so that she/he can help the country achieve glory in the realm of sports”.

Dhanraj Pillai, former Indian hockey team captain was overwhelmed to see the enthusiasm for polio eradication and wondered if it was the polio programme partners who had organised the match!

The District Magistrate in a message said that while it was the moment to celebrate and cheer, it was also the time to be cautious. “We do know the virus has not been eliminated completely. At no instance should we abandon caution. Parents, vaccinators, social mobilizers – must all work hard to ensure that no child is missed,” he said.

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