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COMBAT DISEASES

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION DECLARES INDIA POLIO-FREE

As the World Health Organization declared India "polio-free" February 11, church health workers celebrated and reflected on the challenges they faced convincing parents to allow their children to get the vaccine.

National celebrations, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, were held at an indoor stadium in New Delhi February 11. Though India--a nation of 1.27 billion people--recorded 741 cases of polio in 2009, no incident of the crippling disease had been reported since February 2011.

The U.S. bishops' development agency, Catholic Relief Services, helped mobilize people to facilitate the government's polio immunization program and vaccinate more than 5 million children from 2008 to 2012.

Under the mass immunization campaign, more than 2 million vacinators would visit 200 million households across the country and immunize 170 million children under age 5 on designated days. Polio booths were set up to provide oral polio drops even at railway stations and in marketplaces.

GENDER INEQUALITY'S DEADLY TOLL

In its inaugural report on women's health from the cradle to the grave, the World Health Organization found that HIV is the #1 killer of women ages 15 to 49 worldwide and that unequal access to sex education and health care leads to millions of preventable deaths each year. Traffic accidents, suicide and breast cancer are the top causes of death in high-income nations, while HIV/AIDS, maternal conditions (such as dying during childbirth and unsafe abortions) and tuberculosis account for 1 in 2 female deaths in poorer countries.

Top 10 causes of death for women ages 20 to 59 worldwide:

HIV/AIDS—835,000
Maternal conditions—453,000
Heart disease—429,000
Stroke—360,000
Tuberculosis—313,000
Breast cancer—223,000
Suicide—204,000
Lower-respiratory infection—190,000
Traffic accident—172,000
Pulmonary disease—149,000

Source of information: World Health Organization

OTHER NUMBERS

30 million--Number of rubella and measles vaccines that Brazil's top biomedical center will produce for countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

--HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are falling dramatically throughout the world, due to better access to anti-retroviral drugs. Deaths have dropped from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005 to 1.6 million, while infections have fallen by 33%, to 2.3 million, according to a new United Nations report. (BBCNews.com)

--By the end of 2016, UNICEF will deliver 2.9 million polio vaccinations to children under five in Syria.