Landmark moment as India to be declared 'polio-free'
After three years during which no one has been infected with polio, the country will be officially declared rid of the disease
Four year old Rukhsar Khatun is running with her shrieking brother and sisters among the chickens and ducks in the dirt yard of her parents' bamboo hut in Shahpara village, near Calcutta. She should be laughing like the others, but she's crying.
She was diagnosed with polio on January 13th 2011 when she was 15 months old and months of illness left her with one leg slightly shorter than the other. Now her high-energy games hurt her leg and often leave her in tears.
It might be a tragic story, but for campaigners striving to eradicate the disease Rukhsar is a symbol of hope: She is the last person in India to contract polio, the end of the line for a disease which has been in India for thousands of years and just three decades ago claimed 150,000 victims in a single year.
Many of those victims are today the beggars with withered and twisted limbs who limp and crawl between cars pleading with motorists at city junctions, but Rukhsar Khatun has recently started school and is growing up under the watchful gaze of the global charity Rotary which has played a leading role in the campaign to eradicate polio. They see her as a living turning point, the end of a horrible history, and an inspiration for countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria where polio remains endemic: If India, once the single largest concentration of polio sufferers in the world, can eradicate the disease, any country can.
Monday is the third anniversary of the day Rukhsar was diagnosed and the third consecutive year India has not seen a single new case. It means the country is now officially 'polio-free' and will receive its certification in March.
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