Archives of WHO

Archives of the Smallpox Eradication Programme

The Archives of the Smallpox Eradication Programme are currently being digitized and will soon be accessible online.

Poster showing Africa free of smallpox
Poster commemorating the eradication of smallpox in 1979
  • Reference code : ARC006
  • Title : Records relating to the Smallpox Eradication Programme
  • Date(s) : 1948-1987
  • Level of description : Fonds
  • Extent and medium : 40 linear m, paper
  • Accruals : No
  • Conditions governing access : Open for consultation subject to the deadlines and restrictions in force at WHO
  • Conditions governing reproduction : The archives are subject to WHO author's copyright.
  • Finding aids : Paper inventory
  • Rules or conventions : Descriptive notice in conformity with ISAD(G) norm

In 1966, the 19th World Health Assembly requested the Director-General of WHO to initiate action to carry out a world-wide smallpox eradication programme. Historically, the programme remains one of the great achievements of WHO, as in 1980, the 33rd World Health Assembly endorsed the conclusions of the Global Commission for Certification of Smallpox Eradication that smallpox had been eradicated worldwide and that the return of the virus was unlikely. The documents describe the effort to control this endemic disease, which had already begun in 1948 and continued after 1980.

The fonds consists of a wealth of correspondence, notes, decisions and discussions, essentially between the smallpox eradication unit and collaborators in different countries, as well as with national health authorities, laboratories and the medical profession as a whole. The fonds also contains documents from the Regional Offices, posters, photographs and films.

Source : Archives of the smallpox eradication programme, a guide and inventory, WHO, Geneva, 1982, 2 vol.

Original document with the signatures of the different countries
Parchment signed at Geneva on 9 December 1979, by the members of the Global Commission for Certification of Smallpox Eradication
Head of a mummy showing signs of the disease
Traces of smallpox pustules on the head of a 3000 year-old mummy, that of the Pharaoh Ramses V, show that smallpox has been a scourge of mankind since time immemorial.