Rukhsar Khatoon may be the last reported case of wild poliovirus in India, she was just 18 months old when she was paralyzed by polio on 13 January 2011.
Although her two siblings received polio vaccinations, Rukhsar was often sick with diarrhea and despite encouragement from local health workers her parents had thought it was safer for her to avoid the vaccine.
The stream of doctors, polio workers, and media that have visited this little girl since her diagnosis has made her well known in the neighborhood, but she is still shy around visitors. She huddles against her mother, Shabida, as her family answers questions. A host of extended family and neighbors gather around to hear her story as chickens and village dogs weave through the courtyard.
Thankfully, the effects of polio were mild and after extensive physical therapy, Rukhsar is now able to walk with little evidence of paralysis. Her family is aware that she has been very fortunate.
Since she came down with polio, they have encouraged other parents in their community to avoid the same mistake and have worked with local UNICEF staff to educate neighbors to about the vaccine.
There have been no other cases reported in India since hers. In this country – where some said polio could never be eradicated due to its sheer size, population density, poor sanitary conditions, weak public health system, and poor response to the vaccine – thanks to millions of health workers, along with dedicated officials, community members and parents – the tide has turned against polio.
Although it can’t be said for sure that polio is gone from India yet, this is already a remarkable feat, of which India should be extremely proud.
Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation