The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN’’s postal agency have released a commemorative postage stamp on the 40th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox.

“To commemorate the 40th Anniversary of #smallpox eradication, the @UN Postal Administration and WHO are releasing a commemorative postage stamp to recognize global solidarity in fighting smallpox,” the WHO tweeted at the virtual unveiling of the stamp in Geneva on Friday.

In another tweet, it said, “#OnThisDay 40 years ago, #smallpox was made history. It’s the only human disease to be eradicated so far. A lesson we must take is: when the Earth globe europe-africa unites behind science and public health measures we can defeat diseases and protect lives and livelihoods.”

Smallpox was eradicated on the back of a 10-year-old effort spearheaded by the WHO involving thousands of health workers around the world to administer half a billion vaccinations.

“When WHO’’s smallpox eradication campaign was launched in 1967, one of the ways countries raised awareness about smallpox was through postage stamps – when social media like Twitter and Facebook was not even on the horizon,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The stamp recognises the global solidarity in fighting smallpox and honours millions of people working together, from world leaders and international organisations to rural doctors and community health workers, to eradicate smallpox.

The WHO chief said that many of the basic public health tools that were used successfully to eradicate smallpox are the same tools that have been used to respond to Ebola and Covid–19: disease surveillance, case finding, contact tracing, and mass communication campaigns to inform affected populations.

The WHO is now working with many partners to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 to control the transmission of the virus, Ghebreyesus said.

The UN said that the successful smallpox eradication programme yielded vital knowledge and tools for the field of disease surveillance, the benefits of vaccination and the importance of health promotion in fighting other diseases.

In May 1980, the 33rd World Health Assembly issued its official declaration that “the world and all its peoples have won freedom from smallpox.”

“There are many lessons to learn from the eradication of smallpox that can help fight the Covid-19 pandemic today and prepare for future pandemics,” the UN said.

“The eradication of smallpox offers us hope and shows us what global solidarity can achieve,” it said.

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