August 2, 2013 | The Editors

The last person to get smallpox

Seated nurse pinches a young girl's cheeks and ues a dropper to place vaccine in the girl's mouth.
A nurse gives polio vaccine to a young girl. Photo: PATH/Richard Franco.

Ali Maow Maalin thought the shot might hurt, so he skipped smallpox  vaccination. Maalin, the last member of the general public to get the disease before its elimination, eventually recovered. He spent the rest of his life helping people in his native Somalia get vaccinated against another scourge that’s now on the cusp of elimination: polio.

Maalin died July 22 after a short illness, as NPR reported this week in a fitting tribute. The suspected cause of Maalin’s death? Complicated (also called severe) malaria.

Last person to get smallpox dedicated his life to ending polio

NPR, July 31, 2013

So far, the human race has eliminated just one disease in history: smallpox. But it’s on the cusp of adding a second virus—polio—to that list. One special man in Somalia was at the battlefront of both eradication efforts. He died last week of a sudden illness at age 59. Ali Maow Maalin was the last member of the general public—worldwide—to catch smallpox. And he spent the past decade working to end polio in Somalia.

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Colombia first country in the world to banish river blindness

Digital Journal, July 30, 2013

The World Health Organization has confirmed Colombia as the first country in the world having eliminated onchocerciasis (river blindness), a neglected tropical disease which infects approximately 37 million people in 35 countries worldwide.

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Pfizer sells key vaccine cheaply to poor countries

The Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2013

Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has agreed to provide hundreds of millions of doses of its lucrative vaccine against pneumonia and meningitis at a fraction of the usual price for young children in poor countries. The deal to provide 260 million shots of its Prevnar 13 vaccine for a few dollars each is Pfizer’s third agreement under an innovative program through which pharmaceutical companies, governments, health groups, and charities collaborate to bring poor countries a long-term supply of affordable vaccines against deadly diseases.

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How midwives have become critical in war zones

NPR, July 25, 2013

In a conflict zone, getting the basics—food, water, shelter—is a constant challenge. And it likely involves being on the move. Now imagine pregnancy. There might not be a functioning medical facility for miles. And the environment makes the woman and her baby more susceptible to complications.

Aid groups are increasingly relying on conflict midwives to help women in these situations. In dangerous and unstable regions, midwives’ jobs are more than delivering babies: they often have to help women who have experienced sexual violence and have reproductive health issues.

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