United Nations | United Nations Postal Administration

United Nations

Offices at Geneva

08 May 2020

Definitive — 40th Anniversary of Eradication of Smallpox

United Nations Offices at Geneva: Eradication of Smallpox 40th Anniversary, 8 May 2020. Images from United Nations Postal Administration.

Technical Specifications:

Date of Issue: 8 May 2020
Designer: Sergio Baradat (United Nations)
Denomination: CHF 1,70
Stamp size: 40 mm x 30 mm
Stamps per sheet: 20
Printer: Cartor Security Printing (France)
Process: Offset lithography
Perforation: 13 x 13 1/4
Quantity: 12,000 sheets (240,000 stamps)

The World Health Organization commemorated the 40th anniversary of smallpox eradication in December 2019, recognizing the historic moment on 9 December 1979 when the end of smallpox was confirmed to have been eradicated. Five months later, in May 1980, the 33rd World Health Assembly issued its official declaration that ‘the world and all its peoples have won freedom from smallpox’.

A plaque marking the end of a scourge that had afflicted millions for thousands of years was unveiled at WHO headquarters in Geneva in the very same meeting room where, four decades earlier, the 19 members of the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication certified that smallpox had been eradicated from the world.

Until it was wiped out, smallpox had plagued humanity for at least 3000 years, killing 300 million people in the 20th century alone. The last known endemic case of smallpox was reported and the outbreak promptly contained in Somalia in 1977.

The successful smallpox eradication programme yielded vital knowledge and tools for the field of disease surveillance, the benefits of ring vaccination and the importance of health promotion in fighting diseases such as poliomyelitis and the Ebola virus. It also laid the foundation for stronger national immunization programmes worldwide, underpinning the establishment of primary health care in many countries and creating momentum toward Universal Health Coverage.

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