New Perspectives in South Asian History
Vikas Bajpai
New Perspectives in South Asian History by Isao Arita THE SMALLPOX ERADICATION SAGA: AN INSIDER'S VIEW, 2011, 189 pp., 00.00
December 2011, volume 35, No 12

Smallpox eradication remains one of the most outstanding achievements in the area of international public health. Any account of this extraordinary achievement of the collective human race ought to evoke interest, especially if it comes from a person of Isao Arita’s erudition. Arita was one of the primary architects of WHO’s ‘Intensified Small-pox Eradication Campaign’ and later came to head the ‘smallpox eradication unit’ of the WHO at the most crucial time of the fight against the disease.

Arita chronicles the saga of smallpox eradication from the beginning of its ‘inten-sified phase’ till the ‘preparedness to prevent the return of smallpox’ and meticulous docu-mentation of the whole effort, in a narrative that is not just intelligible to the laity and the scientific community alike but even edges on to becoming a thriller providing an intense action-packed account of the duel between man and the smallpox virus.

The whole account of the smallpox eradi-cation campaign in the horn of Africa com-prising Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya is particularly riveting and by far the most interesting portion of the book. This region formed an arena of intense geopolitical tensions between the countries of the region then, as indeed it is even today. The Ogaden desert spanning across Ethiopia, Somalia and north of Kenya constitutes the larger stage for the grandstand with smallpox in the end game with the entire focus narrowed down to the triangle between Dimo (Ethiopia), Ledi (Kenya) and Mogadishu (Somalia).

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