MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Smallpox survivor Ali Maow Maalin passes away

Ali Maow Maalin, a smallpox survivor and later a champion against polio in Somalia, passed away on July 22 in his home district of Merka, Somalia.

Maalin was the last person in the world to naturally be infected with smallpox. He was struck by the virus in 1977 while working as a cook at Merka hospital. He never received the smallpox vaccination because he feared the pain of the shot, but after contracting smallpox and surviving it, he promised to make sure others would not make the same mistake.

"Somalia was the last country with smallpox," Maalin said. "I wanted to help ensure that we would not be the last place with polio too."

Maalin used his battle with smallpox and the story of how he contracted it to show the importance of vaccination. He became an instrumental advocate in the fight against polio in Somalia and helped lend a hand to its defeat in 2008.

Maalin was a district polio officer and after coming down with a sudden illness, died while on the second day of the polio eradication vaccination campaign he was conducting in Merka district. Maalin leaves behind a wife and three children.