Arts, Culture & Media

Remembering Ali Maow Maalin, the Last Person in the World to Contract Smallpox

This story is a part of

Human Needs

This story is a part of

Human Needs

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Ali Maow Maalin (Photo: World Health Organization)

In Somalia, Ali Maow Maalin died unexpectedly this week. He was closely associated with the ongoing fight to eradicate polio around the globe. But his passing is a milestone in the history of another viral disease: smallpox. Ali Maow Maalin was the last person in the world to be infected with naturally occurring smallpox before the disease was eradicated.

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One of the battlefronts in the ongoing fight to eradicate polio around the globe is Somalia. One man who was closely associated with that battle died unexpectedly this week. Ali Maow Maalin passed away on Monday in Somalia after a sudden illness.

But his passing is also a milestone in the history of another viral disease: smallpox. Ali Maow Maalin was the last person in the world to be infected with naturally occurring smallpox before the disease was eradicated. He contracted the virus in 1977, when he was working as a hospital cook.

Following his recovery, Maalin became a dedicated advocate for polio eradication in Somalia, and he used his own experience with smallpox to illustrate the importance of vaccination.

Anchor Carol Hills speaks with Jason Weisfeld, who led the World Health Organization team that conducted the surveillance and containment in 1977 which confirmed Ali to be the last case of endemic smallpox in the world.