The greatest humanitarian mission .. On the day Spain provided a drug that saved humanity


Source: Arabic.Net – Taha Abdel Nasser Ramadan

In the late eighteenth century, the English physician, Edward Jenner succeeded in discovering a vaccine for smallpox, which has long exhausted mankind at the time, killing at least 400,000 people annually in Europe alone.

A fictional portrait of a Belmes character
A fictional portrait of a Belmes character

This English doctor came to vaccination after he noticed an immunity to the disease in Milking, Mrs. Sarah Nelmes, who was previously infected with cowpox fever.

successful experience

Jenner intentionally collected samples of the affected woman’s skin and injected them into the arms of James Phipps, noting that he had minor symptoms after which he had recovered after a few weeks.

Later, Edward Jenner injected the child several times with smallpox, noting that he had not had the disease to confirm that he had acquired immunity against it and refuted previous concepts of the vaccine thanks to his experience, which mainly linked between pus and cowpox.

Panel for a smallpox vaccination
Panel for a smallpox vaccination

Moreover, Edward Jenner’s successful experiment gained fame spanning all of Europe’s kingdoms and empires. And in Spain, the problem of the smallpox of the empire, where many of the inhabitants of its colonies on the American continent and Asia, died every year because of this disease.

Save humanity

In the face of this situation, the Spanish doctor Francisco Javier de Balmis has taken upon himself the task of saving millions of Spanish colonies from smallpox.

Belmes was born in 1753 in the city of Alicante, also known as Balkant, Spanish. Later, the latter left Spain and set out for Havana and from there to Mexico City, where he worked as a surgeon at the San Juan de Dios Hospital and studied botany and methods of using it to make drugs.

Portrait of the King of Spain Charles IV
Portrait of the King of Spain Charles IV

Returning home, Belmes became a doctor for the Spanish king Charles IV, beginning his journey to save humanity on the American continent and Asia.

After a series of conversations, Belmes persuaded King Charles IV of his assistance to begin a campaign to vaccinate the inhabitants of the Spanish colonies against smallpox.

Using orphaned children

After seeing with his own eyes and affected by the death of his daughter, Maria Teresa, due to smallpox at the age of 3 years in 1794, King Charles IV agreed to extend a helping hand to his physician, Belmes, to eliminate smallpox in the Spanish colonies.

An illustration of the route taken by the Belmes campaign
An illustration of the route taken by the Belmes campaign

On 30 November 1803, Belemes set out from La Coruna aboard the Maria Pita ship, accompanied by a medical team that includes health professionals in addition to about 22 orphaned children who were vaccinated against smallpox. Cowpox pus by using them to vaccinate the largest possible number of colonial residents.

This humanitarian medical mission carried on its way the smallpox vaccination towards the Canary Islands, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela, the Philippines and some regions of China.

Medical mission

In Venezuela, the mission split at La Guaira, and Doctor Jose Salvany headed towards areas like Panama, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, while Belmes left Caracas towards Havana.

After heading to Mexico City, Belmes transported another 25 orphaned children who had been vaccinated against smallpox for help when he turned to the Philippines and to ensure that symptoms of the disease continued to appear on them while crossing the Pacific.

Church support

In the Philippines, Belmes received the support of the Catholic authorities in the region that supported his mission, thereby providing vaccination to tens of thousands of local residents.

Photo of Princess Maria Theresa who died of smallpox
Photo of Princess Maria Theresa who died of smallpox

As his expedition returned to Mexico, this Spanish doctor continued his journey to China to the Canton of Macau and later set out for St. Helena Island before finally returning to Spain.

The Belmes mission was the first medical and humanitarian campaign around the earth in history. Thanks to this, this Spanish physician saved the lives of vast numbers of people in both the American continent and Asia.

On the other hand, English physician Edward Jenner described the Belmes campaign as the greatest charitable, human and noble mission in history.

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