The Bravest Girl You’ll Ever Meet

The story of a girl with polio left for 10 days in the forest brings attention to the ongoing war in Central African Republic.

Hamamatou Harouna 
Hamamatou Harouna  Jerome Delay/Associated Press

“The Bravest Girl You’ll Ever Meet”

Story Tells of Polio Victim Left for 10 Days in Forest

An Associated Press story about “The bravest girl you’ll ever meet,” in the words of a tweet Monday from the reporter, is winning kudos for its emotional power and its journalism. The story tells of a 10-year-old girl with polio who cannot walk and is left to fend for herself in a forest in the midst of a war between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic.

The wire service moved reporter Krista Larson’s story, datelined Carnot, Central African Republic, in advance for release on Monday. It began:

“When gunfire rang out through the village just after dawn, when neighbors dropped their coffee to flee, even when her mother grabbed three younger children and ran for her life, the 10-year-old girl did not move.

“It was not that terror pinned Hamamatou Harouna to the ground, although she was terrified. It was that polio had left her unable to walk.

“So all she could do was wait and watch, paralyzed, as the vicious war between Muslims and Christians in Central African Republic came to her village. The Christian fighters were going from door to door, and she wondered if she would die.

“That’s when her 12-year-old brother came to her rescue. Barely bigger than his sister, Souleymane struggled to hoist her, all 40 pounds of her, onto his back. Around his neck she clasped her calloused hands, dirty from pulling herself over the ground.

“They set off, barefoot, disappearing into the dense tropical forest as fast as they could manage. Her legs could not hook onto her brother’s back, and her body drooped like a dead weight.