News

Asia Marks 30 Years since World Declared Free of Smallpox

Multimedia

Audio

Some of the key health workers who eradicated smallpox in Asia have re-united to commemorate 30 years of freedom from the incurable disease which was a scourge on humanity for many centuries.

Asian medical officers, physicians and epidemiologists gathered at the World Health Organization's regional headquarters to mark the three decades since smallpox was declared vanquished. Those in the room were deemed "world health warriors" who isolated the remaining few cases in the 1970s and creating a ring of immunization around them.

WHO's regional director, Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang, told them they achieved a significant historical accomplishment.

"We gather here today to reaffirm the first unequivocal and total victory of a public health program," he said.  "The victory over a major cause of human suffering and death is of the greatest achievements of public health during the 20th century."

An American epidemiologist played a key role in developing the eradication strategy for the incurable and disfiguring disease. Dr. William Foege, who later became the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States, says it took more than science to beat smallpox. Putting aside cultural and ideological difference was key and that is an approach, he says, that can benefit humanity in other ways.

"This does not have to be a world of plagues, disastrous governments, conflicts and uncontrolled health risks," he said.  "It is possible to plan a rational future. And smallpox eradication is a constant reminder that we should settle for nothing less."

The last known naturally occurring case of the more deadly strain of smallpox, Variola major, was detected in the offshore island district of Bhola, in Bangladesh in 1975.  Rahima Banu Begum was less than two years old. She attended the commemoration Friday in New Delhi, briefly speaking at the event and posing for photographs with the medical officers who personally confronted the last smallpox cases in Asia.

She tells VOA News the disease continues to haunt her.

The mother of four recalls being ostracized in her village. When she married at age 18 her in-laws did not like her because she had suffered from smallpox. She begins crying as she says people continue to treat her badly because of this.

The World Health Organization began an intensive eradication program in 1967 against the disease, which was also a major cause of blindness. It targeted four endemic areas: sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Indonesian archipelago and Brazil.

In India and neighboring countries, health personnel eventually went house to house to detect smallpox and offered rewards to villagers who reported new cases.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs