Letter to the PM: This Independence Day Let's Pledge To Free India From Childhood Disease

15/08/2015 7:45 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
An Indian child is administered polio vaccine in Kolkata, India, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. India marked a major success in its battle against polio last year by being removed from the World Health Organization's list of countries plagued by the crippling disease. The country must pass two years without new cases to be declared polio-free. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

Happy Independence Day!

At the outset, let me start by acknowledging your leadership on health issues. In the past year alone, India has assumed the Presidency of the 68th World Health Assembly, committed to the India Newborn Action Plan (INAP), launched the Integrated Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (IAPPD), completed the first phase of the immunisation campaign Mission Indradhanush, announced the introduction of four new life-saving vaccines as part of the Universal Immunisation Programme, and circulated a draft of the National Health Policy for stakeholder comments. India's quest for regional and global leadership in health has certainly begun.

But we need more momentum. The quest for freedom from childhood diseases needs visionary leadership and commitment.

Here's why.

Despite its efforts, India presently tops a list of 15 other high burden countries for the total number of deaths of children under the age of 5, due to pneumonia and diarrhoea. In 2013, more than 3 lakh children under the age of five died from these two diseases. Experts warn that every two minutes, a child in India dies from pneumonia or diarrhoea.

These deaths are preventable.

One study has estimated that the introduction and scale-up of just three vaccines - Hib, PCV, and rotavirus - could help India save all these lives, and even realise Rs. 3,621.4 crore each year in economic benefits.

While your government has promised to introduce critical new vaccines -- first as part of the UIP, and more recently, as part of the ambitious Mission Indradhanush -- the time to build on this given momentum is now.

We must continue to dedicate sustained technical and financial resources to the immunisation program in order for the intervention to be useful to those that need it the most. As your Health Minister JP Nadda has committed your government to a Swachh Bharat and Swasth Bharat, it is of utmost importance that we adopt a comprehensive approach.

Sir, on this day when India celebrates its independence, let us renew our vow to our children - let us pledge to work and make India free from childhood disease.

The 20,000-strong fraternity of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics wants to extend its resolute support to the government in this quest. It is an investment in our future as a nation.

Jai Hind!

Sincerely yours,

Dr S S Kamath

President, Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP)

Dr. Pravin Mehta

Hon. Secretary General

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