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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs