Published October 17, 2012
LONDON – A 14-year-old girl shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting female education has been doing better since she was airlifted to England for specialized treatment and has been moving her limbs, a Pakistani official said Wednesday.
Although it's difficult to gauge what such an improvement might mean given that the exact nature of Malala Yousufzai's brain injuries have yet to be made public, one expert said the news was good.
"Any progress is hopeful," Dr. Jonathan Fellus, chief scientific officer at the New Jersey-based International Brain Research Foundation, said. "This is the natural course of recovery that we would expect."
The Pakistani official, who spoke anonymously because he wasn't cleared to talk on the record about the case, said he had been briefed by doctors and that Malala's condition was "definitely much better" since she arrived in England on Monday. He added that the girl was moving her limbs, although he didn't elaborate.
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where Malala is being treated, released a statement Wednesday saying Malala was in "stable condition and continued to impress doctors by responding well to her care," but didn't go into detail. The hospital's acting head of communications, Carole Cole, said there would be no further news on the case until Thursday. Malala's family, which the hospital said was still in Pakistan, could not be reached for comment.
Malala was returning home from school in Pakistan last week when she was targeted by the Taliban for promoting female education and criticizing the militant group's behavior when they took over the Swat Valley, where she lived. The attack, in which two of her classmates were also wounded, has horrified many in Pakistan and across the world.
The Taliban have threatened to target Malala again, because she promotes "Western thinking."
Fellus said in a phone interview that physical abilities were often the first to return in cases of traumatic brain injury, and that didn't mean that the teen would necessarily make a full recovery.
Still, he said, "the earlier you start to see recovery, the better."
Sebastian Abbot in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.