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Global Health Institute Launches Secretariat for Commemoration of Smallpox Eradication


The Emory Global Health Institute and veteran smallpox eradication workers from around the world have launched a secretariat to organize events commemorating the 30th anniversary of the worldwide eradication of smallpox. The formal commemoration will take place in May 2010 at the time of the World Health Assembly at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

The year 2010 will mark the 30th year since the World Health Assembly certified the world free of smallpox. On May 8, 1980, the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication reported to the 33rd assembly that natural transmission of this scourge had ceased in 1977 and that all conditions for certification of eradication had been met.

Veteran smallpox eradication workers will lead the Smallpox Eradication Commemoration 2010 (SEC2010) secretariat at the Emory Global Health Institute. The secretariat is launching a worldwide design competition for a smallpox eradication monument to be installed at the entrance of the WHO headquarters in Geneva. The monument will be unveiled and dedicated at commemoration events during the period of the 63rd World Health Assembly in May 2010 in Geneva.

“The Emory Global Health Institute is honored to partner with smallpox eradication veterans in launching a secretariat to organize events for this momentous commemoration event,” says Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH, vice president for global health at Emory University and director of the Emory Global Health Institute. “The events in 2010 will recognize true global courage and cooperation, and we are pleased to play a leadership role in this celebration.”

Koplan, who is former director and a 26-year veteran of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began his public health career working to eradicate smallpox in Bangladesh.

During the eradication campaign, hundreds of thousands of dedicated smallpox workers throughout the world performed heroically under exceedingly challenging conditions in service to their countries. The 30th anniversary commemoration will recognize these “forgotten” heroes.

Ironically, the last smallpox case occurred in a hospital worker who escorted another smallpox patient to the hospital in Merca, Somalia. The hospital worker survived and is recognized as the last hero of this unprecedented achievement in medicine and public health.

“There are many health workers around the world whose dedication, perseverance and plain hard work eradicated smallpox from their countries,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO. “It is time that the world’s institutions pause to honor their contributions to this unprecedented achievement in public health.”

The secretariat also will focus on documenting the history of smallpox eradication in printed and visual media and will host an international scientific symposium examining the legacy of smallpox eradication. All commemoration activities will be privately funded.


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