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India Set To Be Declared Polio Free From Today (PICTURES)

13/01/2014 13:44 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Outside her village home, while her mother embroidered a striking pink sari, India's last polio victim looked shyly at the cameras capturing her playing with her brothers and sisters, among the dirt and the chickens.

In her patterned green dress, she ambled around after them, her small limp and occasional cries of pain the only indication of her enormous significance in India's history.

Three year-old Rukhsar Khatoon, from Shapara village around 40km west of Kolkata, is the last patient to have been reported as having polio, three years ago this week.

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The last polio patient registered in India, three year-old Rukhshar Khatoon looks on outside her home in Shapara

Passing that marker means India will soon be certified by the world's health body as having eradicated the crippling illness.

“Ruksha is cured though she feels a little pain in the affected right leg when she runs. Earlier, many of us did not take our babies to get polio drops, but now most have understood the deadliness of the infection,” said her father Abdul Shah, a zari embroidery-worker, quoted in the Hindustan Times.

She may be the last child in India to experience that pain. The elimination of polio is an immense milestone for the country, and for the aid agencies who have dedicated themselves to global eradication.

It is an astonishing turnaround. Rukhsar was the only patient treated for polio in 2011. Just two years earlier, hospitals recorded 741 people with polio. In 1985, it was 150,000.

India and the charities who work there have engaged in a mass campaign of immunisation, reaching the poorest and most remote families. It has involved 2.3 million volunteers visiting 209 million homes to vaccinate some 170 million children under five years of age in India during every round of immunisation, according to the BBC.

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A child receives polio vaccination drops from a medical volunteer during an immunisation drive in Amritsar

India's government announced the country polio-free today, but the World Health Organisation will finish its final tests on February 11.

Some local health experts have warned that the battle is not yet over, an investigation by the Hindustan Times found many rural villages where children were not immunised.

"Many, unfortunately, are still against immunisation,” Dr Prasanta Biswas, polio monitoring officer in charge of Howrah told the HT.

Nicole Deutsch, head of polio operations for the UN children's charity Unicef in India, told AFP: "India has now set other important public health goals as a result of the confidence that the country has got from the successful eradication of polio."

Health experts have however warned that there is a resurgence of polio elsewhere in the world, especially amongst poverty-stricken refugees in Syria, living in filthy temporary camps.

Pakistan is the other major worry, and as it becomes more dangerous for aid agencies to operate in parts of the country, there is a fear the disease could also spread back to India. Polio cases there increased by from 58 cases in 2012 to 85 last year.

In November, militants kidnapped 11 Pakistani teachers working on a polio vaccination campaign, one of a string of attacks on health workers.