The Economic Times
By N R Narayana Murthy and Ted Turner
India celebrated an historic milestone earlier this month when the World Health Organisation announced there had been no new cases of wild polio virus for one year. That leaves only three polio endemic countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
To understand the scope of this achievement, consider that 20% of all births worldwide today are in India. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), one child is born here every 20 seconds, and each has to be vaccinated in order to completely wipe out polio – from the most rural outposts to shanty towns in urban hubs and everywhere in between.
The achievement is a validation of the work of the United Nations, the public and private partners of the Global Polio Eradication initiative, the Indian government, and the people of India, all of whom united to solve what seemed like an insurmountable problem.
The victory over polio is also evidence that fast-growing nations like India can embrace economic development and sustainable development at the same time. India`s transformation on many fronts gives us reason to believe that nations can overcome disease and environmental degradation to become healthier, wealthier, and more environmentally sustainable.
It is estimated that India will soon surpass China as the world`s most populous country. As India grows, it is bringing millions of people out of poverty and into an emerging middle class. How India grows can show the world that harnessing innovative technologies, using sustainable energy sources, and engaging a young generation is a proven path to prosperity.
India is working with the UN to tackle these issues on a global scale. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is championing two new initiatives – Every Woman Every Child and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative – because access to energy and improving women and children`s health are fundamental to achieving all our development goals. India is an example of how a commitment to these two goals leads to results.
A bright future for India begins with increased efforts to promote safe motherhood. According to USAID, today, India accounts for more maternal deaths than any other country in the world; avoidable complications during pregnancy and childbirth kill approximately 67,000 Indian women annually. These unfortunate statistics are a reality in part because many Indian mothers are still in their teens; nearly one-third of all women deliver a child before the age of 20.
The Indian government has committed to promoting maternal health and family planning, pledging to spend $3.5 billion per year on improving health services, especially women`s and children`s health. India`s ministry of health has announced it is strengthening efforts in the 264 districts that account for nearly 70% of all infant and maternal deaths. The government is implementing a Mother and Child Tracking System, which tracks every pregnant woman by name for the provision of timely antenatal care, institutional delivery and postnatal care, and immunisations for newborns.
Innovations in health are being matched with a bold effort to find new sources of energy to meet India`s growing demand. According to the UN, more than 280 million people in India lack access to electricity, and millions more suffer from unreliable and intermittent service. When Indians don`t have access to energy, they cannot improve their health and economic opportunity.
In Bangalore, rooftops are dotted with solar-powered water heaters – now mandatory on all new structures. Underserved communities are experimenting with clean energy solutions. The UN Foundation, for example, through its Practitioner Network for Energy Access, is working with a range of businesses and civil society organisations in India to catalyse the delivery of micro-grid and stand-alone energy solutions to communities that lack access to electricity.
In India`s rural communities, clean burning cookstoves can provide a safer way formillions of people who live off the electricity grid to cook meals without emitting harmful smoke into their homes. The Global Alliance for Clean Cook-stoves has extended an invitation to the Indian government, as a leader on this issue, to be a leading national implementing partner in scaling up the market for clean cookstoves and fuels.