By Selah Hennessy
Doctors at the British hospital where Malala Yousafzai is being treated, say the 14-year-old Pakistani girl is making good progress. In London, analysts say the attempt on her life by Taliban gunmen last week has raised the profile of her campaign for female education in Pakistan.
It seems Yousafzai is more than just strong-willed. British doctors say they are impressed by her physical strength and resilience too. The 14-year-old was flown Monday to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England.
Hospital Medical Director David Rosser says doctors are optimistic about her recovery.
“Well, it very clearly says that the doctors, some of whom were people from here in the children’s hospital, believed that she has a chance of making a good recovery, as it clearly would have been inappropriate on every level, not least for her, to put her through all this, if there was no hope of a decent recovery,” Dr. Rosser said. “As I say, I have not seen her, but it is clear they believe there is a chance of a decent recovery.”
The doctor added that she is safe in the hospital. On Monday, two people tried and failed to gain access to her hospital room by claiming to be family members.
Yousafzai received initial treatment in Pakistan after being shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen last Tuesday in the Swat Valley. The Taliban said it attacked the young teenager for speaking out against the militant group.
In Pakistan, thousands have rallied on the streets to show their support for the schoolgirl, who has been campaigning for female rights in Pakistan since she was 11 years old. In 2009 she wrote a blog for the BBC about her life in the Swat Valley under the Taliban, when girls were banned from going to school.
Pakistan expert Gareth Price of the London-based research group Chatham House says the assassination attempt has focused global attention on Yousafzai’s campaign to give girls greater access to education.
“This attack on her has highlighted the issue, has sparked public outrage and the next step seems to me to move away from her story – and obviously we hope she recovers – and to the government of Pakistan,” Price said. “And the question is, can they take advantage, can the military take advantage of demonstrated public sentiment against the Taliban to take some bold initiatives?”
He says the public support shown for Yousafzai may encourage the government to push harder for female education.
“The question of girls’ education in Pakistan does go beyond the simple fact of the Taliban targeting schools and particularly in Swat, but also elsewhere in Northwest Frontier Province,” Price said. “Underspending is rife. In some of the tribal areas of Pakistan, female literacy is below 3 percent, which is pretty minimal. So whilst this does present an opportunity, the starting point is very low, and I think it is going to be a long-term fight, and that is presuming that the government does take the initiative.”
Malala Yousafzai is in a special hospital unit for complex trauma cases, where hundreds of soldiers wounded in Afghanistan have also been treated. Doctor Rosser says the girl will need reconstructive surgery, and the hospital has international experts in that field.