Polio free
A child receives a polio immunisation drop Reuters

India has been declared free of endemic polio by the World Health Organisation.

The country was removed from the organisation's list after more than a year without registering a new case of the crippling disease.

However, another two years must pass without any new polio cases in order to be declared totally free of the disease

The change in status is a major boost for India and shows the effort it has put in to eradicate polio. In 1985, 150,000 cases were reported; that number fell to 741 in 2009.

Immunisation formed the front line of the battle, with toys and balloons given to children as incentives. Youngsters were given a purple ink pinkie when they were immunised.

National Immunisation Day was launched in 1995, bringing in millions of volunteers and reaching up to 172 million children each year. The government worked in partnership with the WHO, Unicef and Rotary International, whose members contributed more than $1bn (£630bn) to the effort to eradicate polio.

The last case was reported on 13 January, allowing the country to be removed from the list of countries carrying an endemic disease. Only Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan remain on the list.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh said the success in fighting the disease was a victory for teamwork. He praised the volunteers who toured the country carrying out vaccinations.

"This gives us hope that we can finally eradicate polio not only from India, but from the face of the entire Mother Earth," he said, adding that every child required immunisation fro the disease, safe drinking water and improved sanitation.

"We need to educate our children and our mothers on the importance of hygiene and nutrition to overall good health and longevity," he said.