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Polio crusader meets last polio victim

Posted on Jan 14, 02:57PM | IBNS

As India observed two years of polio free status on Sunday, the global face of the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Polio Crusader Ramesh Ferris, Friday met India's last Polio victim Ruksar Khatun at Panchla, here.

Three-year-old Ruksar Khatun, the last polio victim in the country limps as her right leg is now a shade shorter than her left leg, which is affecting her balance while walking. It is also weak and she often suffers from acute pain.

Khatun may need a surgery on her affected right foot as it is getting twisted, short and weak without which she might lose the limb.

Calling to work for justice, security and solidarity for polio survivors, Ferris expressed hope that India will be able to achieve the polio free certificate in 2014 provided current efforts contain a polio virus are sustained.

This includes increased surveillance, availability of funds and political support, he added.

Ferris said, "The world has its fingers crossed that Rukhsar will be India's last-ever case of polio. The polio drive, however, must continue despite all challenges."

The Khatun's case had set off an alarm bell in Howrah's Panchla in 2011 when she was confirmed to have contracted polio.

Ramesh Ferris with Ruksar

Born in December 1979 in Coimbatore, Ferris contracted polio at age six months and his legs were left paralyzed for life.

He was raised in an orphanage in India and later adopted by a Canadian family before he learned to walk with crutches and braces.

But encouraged by peers from Rotary International, the humanitarian organisation fighting against polio around the world, he decided to fight the odds to become a campaigner.

Being an Ambassador of Rotary International, he has the honor of sharing the polio message with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bill Gates, The Presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria, The Prime Ministers of Canada, UK, Australia, and many other World Leaders.

He has also hand-cycled 7140 km across Canada to raise funds and create awareness about Polio Eradication, Education and Rehabilitation and written a book on polio titled, 'Better Than a Cure, One Man's Journey to Free the World of Polio,' proceeds of which benefit Rotary PolioPlus for a Polio Free World.

Ferris said, "To know that the country of my birth - and the very place I contracted the polio virus 32 years ago - is now off the polio-endemic list has such poignant meaning for me."

Chairman, Rotary's India National PolioPlus Committee, Deepak Kapur said, "Despite strong progress over the last two years, the programme must not lose sight of the facts."

"Polio virus threat has decreased within but the threats of import from polio endemic countries still struggling to contain the virus loom large. Efforts must be sustained to finish the job this year or we risk losing gains made thus far."