“Initially, we were not getting as many mothers and children as we wanted, to come to awareness camps. Then (ad guru) Piyush Pandey suggested that in my films I am known for speaking loudly, so why could I not talk in the same manner in the polio ads,” Bachchan told said.
The 75-year-old actor, who became the UNICEF goodwill ambassador for the polio eradication campaign in India in 2002, believes his erstwhile on-screen persona of an angry young man played a catalyst in spreading awareness about the disease.
“When a few ladies in the rural areas were asked as to why they came for the polio drops, they quipped that they did not want to anger Amitji any further. It took eight years to eradicate polio from our country and I am happy could contribute to it,” Bachchan said in a press release.
Unicef’s India representative Louis Georges Arsenault said eradication of polio would not have been possible without the political will and commitment by successive governments.
Over the past three decades, the world has made tremendous progress toward the eradication of polio. In 1988—when wild poliovirus was present in more than 125 countries and paralyzed 350,000 people every year, primarily young children—the World Health Assembly set a goal to eliminate the disease, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched. Since then, immunization efforts have reduced the number of cases by more than 99%, saving more than 13 million children from paralysis.
India stopped the virus in 2011, and today, polio is found only in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. In 2016, there were fewer than 40 cases reported globally.