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Science and Health:
Photo Essay: The End of Polio by Sebastião Salgado
World health workers are poised on the brink of a major triumph. For only the second time in history a deadly disease, the first being smallpox, is nearly eradicated. Fifteen years ago the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF began a program to rid the world of the killer and crippler polio. As many as 10-million people had been infected worldwide in 1988 when the program began. This year, fewer than 500 new cases were reported.

Famed photographer Sebastião Salgado documents the program's endeavor to reach the last hideouts of polio in our Photo Essay from his book THE END OF POLIO.

Photo Essay The End Polio Now Campaign

The great reduction in polio cases — 99 percent — is the result of the largest public health initiative in history. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides the oral polio vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WHO offer technical expertise. With 1.2 million members in 159 countries, Rotary International has raised approximately $500 million for polio eradication and provided tens of thousands of volunteers in the field.

As shown in our photo essays, ridding the world of polio required travel to remote areas, tracking of nomadic groups and refugees to ensure all children receive the crucial "two drops" of oral vaccine. In strife-torn Somalia, health workers had to be accompanied by armed guards. And, it is essential that the vaccine be kept cold to remain effective. Challenges to eradication remain, in Northern Nigeria, local leaders recently blocked emergency efforts to vaccinate the population against polio after an October 2003 outbreak.

Find out more and how to help:


Brazilian photographer Sebastićo Salgado is one of the most respected photojournalists working today. Educated as an economist, Mr. Salgado, 57, began his photography career in 1973. His first book, OTHER AMERICAS, about the poor in Latin America, was published in 1986. This was followed by SAHEL: MAN IN DISTRESS (also published in 1986), the result of a 15 month long collaboration with Medecins San Frontičres covering the drought in northern Africa. From 1986 to 1992 he documented manual labor world-wide. From 1993 to 1999, he turned his attention to the global phenomenon of mass displacement of people, resulting in the internationally acclaimed books MIGRATIONS and THE CHILDREN published in 2000.

Appointed a UNICEF Special Representative in 2001, he has dedicated himself to chronicling the lives of the world's dispossessed, a work that has filled ten books and many exhibitions and for which he has won numerous awards in Europe and in the Americas.

View images from Salgado's book THE CHILDREN

All photos are used with the kind permission of the photographer and the publisher and distributor of THE END OF POLIO, PixelPress, and Bulfinch Press.

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