India set to be declared polio free, last case reported 3 years ago

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Rukhsar sits in her father's lap at their home in Howrah.

Kolkata:  India is on its way to become a polio-free nation in less than two months. The last polio victim, Rukhsar, was detected at a remote village in West Bengal's Howrah district three years ago.

The World Health Organisation tweeted, "Congratulations India! Three years have passed since India's last case of wild polio."

Rukhsar's family is happy that India is on the verge of becoming polio free, but they want the government to help so that their polio-stricken daughter can grow up to be a warrior against the disease.

Rukhsar is a lovely five-year-old girl today, barring the tragedy that struck her. It affected her right leg forcing her to walk with a limp. Her parents say Rukhsar was a sickly child and every time they went to give her the drops, they were turned away because the child either had diarrhoea or fever.

"I am happy to hear India is going to be polio free soon. But I am also very sad that my daughter Rukhsar has polio. I urge all parents to give their children polio drops in time," her father Abdul Shah says.

Mr Shah is a zari embroidery worker in Sahapara, a poor village in interior Howrah where health workers say ensuring infants get polio drops is still an uphill task. "We still get hostile reactions from people when we go to give polio drops," says Kaniz Fatema Mullick of an NGO called Nari-o-Shishu Kalyan Kendra which has been working in the area for some years.

"But we keep trying. We also want a polio-free India," Ms Mullick says.

The Rotary Club South Asia has promised to help with Rukhsar's education. But her father wants the government's support too. "Rukhsar has been punished with polio," says Shah. "To make up for it I want the government to help with her education so that she can become a doctor and fight against disease."

As hopefully India's last polio victim, Rukhsar deserves all the help she can get. And for millions of children across the country, polio will hopefully soon be history.

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