Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Saturday, 28 February 2009

Immunisation programme 'humbling'

Oral polio vaccine
The oral vaccine was given to 175,000,000 children in four days

A Jersey man has helped immunise thousands of Indian children under the age of five against polio.

Tony Allchurch from St Helier travelled to India as part of National Immunisation Day on 1 February.

In the town of Saharanpur, 52,000 children were immunised in a day and a total of 110,000 over four days.

Mr Allchurch said volunteers visited people's homes, schools, train stations and road junctions to protect children from the disease.

Transmitted through contaminated food and water, polio is highly infectious and sometimes leads to paralysis.

Purple pinky

"It was a truly amazing experience and really inspiring to see so many people committed to eradicating this disease," Mr Allchurch told BBC News.

The programme was jointly organised by the Indian government, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and Rotary International.

"In a few areas, there was some suspicion the immunisation was to make children infertile, but this was overcome by talking to parents and village leaders," Mr Allchurch said.

"To see the acceptance and then be welcomed with such dignity into people's homes, was very humbling."

To enable officials to accurately record the number of children immunised, a spot of purple dye was put on their little finger.

Across India about 175,000,000 children were immunised over a four-day period.

Mr Allchurch said India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are now the only countries in the world where polio is still classed as endemic.

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