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Volume 1 - No.1 - 1996

The Camera Lens as Chronicler

PAHO's legacy of working to improve the health and living conditions of the citizens of the Americas goes back almost 95 years. There have been many milestones and triumphs--and some disappointments--along the way. Many of the images on the following pages hark back to simpler times, before the advent of AIDS, the return of cholera, and massive migrations to the city, but in the days when children still died of polio, and smallpox campaigns were commonplace. They are an elegy to the boundless courage and hope of our peoples, and a tribute to all the nameless doctors, nurses, sanitary engineers, and other health workers who have dedicated themselves to building a better future.

 Woman walking with baby in her arms (Left) In the 1960s, PAHO worked with national health officials to extend clean water supplies to communities such as Pamplona in Colombia, where untreated sewage drained into the Pamplonita River as it cut its way through the heart of the city, causing intestinal infection among large segments of the population.

 Delegates pose outside a building (Right) Delegates pose for a souvenir photograph at the Fourth International Sanitary Conference, held in San José, Costa Rica, in 1910. At this precursor of PAHO's annual Directing Council meetings of today, there was a palpable shift in attitudes, as health officials moved beyond a narrow agenda of quarantine issues to a much broader consideration of health. They soon realized that international cooperation could become the fulcrum for smallpox vaccination, malaria and tuberculosis control, national health legislation, and tropical disease research.

 Group of nine workers sprayng a wall(Left) Under PAHO supervision, rural workers are trained to spray for the malaria-transmitting Anopheles mosquito in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico, in 1956. Two years earlier, at the XIV Pan American Sanitary Conference in Santiago, Chile, the Governments of the Western Hemisphere had resolved to convert all malaria control activities into eradication programs within the shortest time possible. Great strides were made, but the 1970s brought a resurgence of the disease, as the mosquito became resistant to insecticides and antimalarial agents.

 Group of nursing students (Right) While the day's lesson is anyone's guess, this class of nursing students in Mexico in the 1940s follow the instructor's words (far left) with intense interest. Throughout its long history, PAHO has maintained close ties to universities and other learning institutions, offering fellowships and training, as well as support in curricula development.

 A midwife poses outside her house. Behind her, her scissors are hanging from the door frame (Left) During the 1960s, Paraguay launched a nationwide public health campaign to train health workers. Since there were too few hospitals to keep up with the high birth rate, traditional midwives became prized components of this plan, particularly in rural areas. To signal their status of "on call," birth attendants would hang their scissors above the doorway.

 A visiting nurse talks to some kids outside a rural home (Right) As true today as yesterday, traveling doctors and nurses bring families in rural villages basic health messages and services, and are often their only contact with the health sector.

 Girl being vaccinated (Left) Students at the Escuela República de Chile in Tegucigalpa are vaccinated against tuberculosis in 1963 as part of a joint PAHO, World Health Organization, CARE, and UNICEF assistance program to Honduras. During the multi-year campaign, thousands of personnel were trained, valuable ex-perience was gained working in rural areas, and an average of 300 people were examined daily

 Juan Fermín plays with a soccer ball (Right) Seven-year-old Luis Fermín Tenorio (on left), from the remote Peruvian mountain town of Pichanaki, is the last case of poliomyelitis in the Americas. In 1994, the disease was officially declared eradicated from the Western Hemisphere--a history-setting medical triumph achieved by PAHO in partnership with the international community.

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