India and Afghanistan cricket teams join forces to appeal to parents to immunize their children against polio and end the crippling disease in the region once and for all.
COLOMBO, 18 September 2012 - Indian cricket sensations Virender Sehwag , Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh and Rohit Sharma, today met with Afghanistan captain Nowroz Mangal, and his Afghanistan team mates Mohammad Shahzad, Karim Sadeq and Mohammad Ashghar Stanikzai, to exchange cricket bats signed by both national Twenty20 teams. The bats were exchanged as symbols of both countries’ commitment to end polio once and for all. On the teams’ return to their home countries, UNICEF will present the bats to the Governments of Afghanistan and India to underline cricket’s support in the fight against polio.
During the Afghanistan v India clash on Wednesday 19 September, UNICEF, with the support of the International Cricket Council, will display polio eradication messages on the electronic advertising boards and on the electronic scoreboard. The messages, in English, Hindi and Pashto, will express support for Afghanistan’s fight against polio and call on Afghan parents, in the local Pashto language, to immunize their children against polio.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the only three remaining countries yet to stop poliovirus transmission. India stopped polio in January 2011 and is now committed to supporting Pakistan and Afghanistan in eradicating the virus across south Asia, while maintaining very high levels of childhood immunity against polio through regular polio immunization campaigns to guard against an importation of the virus.
Indian opener Virender Sehwag, a long-time supporter of the polio eradication effort, paid tribute to the parents and caregivers in India who had answered the call to immunize their children against polio. “Stopping polio in India was like playing a long innings, it took a lot of focus and effort, but India has proven that this disease can be stopped everywhere in the world, once and for all. We support Afghanistan and Pakistan in their fight against this disease, so that soon no child in the region is ever needlessly paralyzed by polio again.”
Afghanistan captain Nowroz Mangal said that as professional sportspeople, it was an honour to stand up publicly against a disease that cripples children for life. “There is no excuse for polio to still be crippling our children, as we have a vaccine that is safe and effective against this virus. Every child has the right to run and to play and it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that every child is protected against this disease. I call on all parents across Afghanistan to immunize your children against polio, and end this terrible disease in our country.”
UNICEF Afghanistan Goodwill Ambassador and former Afghanistan captain Raeez Ahmadzai paid tribute to the current-day players for their support of the polio eradication campaign. Mr Ahmadzai, a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan, said that players taking this stance have a lot of impact in their community. “Their actions and their words today are crucial to our efforts to eradicate polio,” Mr. Ahmadzai said. “Their voices help us to reach young parents and communities in some of the most remote and difficult areas of the country, to encourage them to protect their children against polio by having every child vaccinated, every time. It is every Afghan’s responsibility to do their bit in the fight to eradicate polio from Afghanistan and the world.”
As of 12 September, there have been just 136 cases of polio reported worldwide in 2012, compared with 650 cases recorded in 2011. In Afghanistan, 17 cases have been reported this year, while 80 cases of polio were registered in 2011. In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched, more than 350,000 cases were reported each year from 188 endemic countries. Now just three countries remain polio-endemic: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.
India’s last case of polio was recorded on 13 January 2011. On 25 February 2012 the World Health Organization officially struck India off the list of remaining polio-endemic countries.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a partnership between Governments, the World Health Organization, Rotary, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.
For further details:
Alistair Gretarsson, Chief, Communication & Advocacy, UNICEF Afghanistan: +93798507110, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rod Curtis, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India: +919717000891, email@example.com
Jeff Lepps, Cricket Consultant, UNICEF India: +94771271479, firstname.lastname@example.org — with Mj Formolie at Colombo,Srilanka.