His shot was part of a vaccination drive that included vitamin A and deworming medicine. It was supported by the GAVI Alliance and managed by UNICEF, which has received $68 million from the Gates Foundation.
Or was it something worse? Her husband has AIDS. She had tested negative for HIV. But what about the boy? Polaki could not get any answers. Nor did the clinic offer AIDS tests.
Most nurses would not talk about such things. Visitors were admonished not to discuss ailments other than measles. It might scare patients away.
At the very least, UNICEF said, such talk could slow down vaccination lines.
Polaki, however, was joined by many in her concerns. All of the six mothers and six nurses interviewed by a Times reporter volunteered deep worry about hunger, TB or AIDS.
The lack of AIDS tests seemed perverse given that free AIDS testing and treatment are widely available in Lesotho thanks largely to the Gates Foundation.
One nurse, Nthekelong Motsoane, mindful that mountain trails become impassible in winter or during bad weather, had tried to get authorities to piggyback other services onto the vaccination drive.
She was unsuccessful.
After their vaccinations, some patients left with their worst diseases unaddressed.
The GAVI vaccination day at Semongkong typified the narrow, paternalistic health programs seen throughout Africa, said Furin, the Lesotho director for Partners in Health. "These [patients] are people who haven't seen a doctor in five years. Should they be satisfied with just a vaccination? I wouldn't be for my kids.
"When powerful organizations like UNICEF say, 'Keep it simple or the people will run screaming from the room,' what do you think the ministry of health will say?" Furin said. "They are completely dependent on the big international agencies."
As successful as vaccination drives have been in curbing targeted diseases, 2006 data, the most recent available, show a paradoxical relationship between GAVI funding in Africa and child mortality. Overall, child mortality improved more often in nations that received smaller than average GAVI grants per capita. In seven nations that received greater than average funding, child mortality rates worsened.
To be sure, malaria, wartime disruption and the relentlessness of AIDS play a big role. Restrictive health programs are to blame, as well, where they turn a blind eye to malnutrition and largely neglected diseases, such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
UNICEF supports health systems but discourages general screening during immunization drives, said Dr. Peter Salama, chief of the agency's health section. "There is a risk of health workers raising expectations and [not] being able to deliver" and of "overburdening the campaign and getting poorer [vaccine] coverage."
Dr. Julian Lob-Levyt, chief executive of GAVI, said his group disagreed with that approach and was committed to integrating general maternal-child health into vaccine drives. "Some of these campaigns are so focused on their own results," he said, "that maybe they don't see the bigger picture."
Lob-Levyt predicted that UNICEF and other aid groups would move rapidly in the direction of more integrated efforts. "We should be spending in all areas, in treatment and prevention," he said. "It isn't . . . a zero-sum game."
Eleven months ago, in response to demands by recipient governments, GAVI created a $500-million fund to expand its approach by improving general health delivery and training, as well as immunization services.
The program is designed for "broader, integrated child survival," Lob-Levyt said. "We're learning as we go."