As an eight-year-old, Anita Ghai was buried neck-deep in a mud grave during a solar eclipse, while her mother was pressured to chant verses from Hindu scripture – ostensibly to cure Ghai of polio, which she had contracted at the age of two. “I still carry guilt – for what my mother had to endure because of me,” says Ghai, now 67 and a dean at Delhi’s Ambedkar University.
Such nightmares, Ghai thought, were over when in March 2014, the World Health Organization declared India – home to half of the world’s polio cases in 2009 – free from the disease. Yet, eight years later, a worrying sequence of events is playing out around the world. Pakistan has witnessed a string of fresh cases, ending a 15-month period without a single new instance of polio. The wild virus from Pakistan has led to infections in Mozambique and Malawi, previously free of the disease.