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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Malaria and World Politics

Over the years, I've mentioned malaria on this blog quite a number of times. It is a preventable disease, but also a human security issue (and affront to human dignity). It is responsible for killing almost 900,000 people per year -- and nearly 90% of the victims are children under age 5 (though infection rates have been "halved in nine African countries since 2000"). Scientists say that global warming contributes to the spread of the often-deadly infection.

Despite this prior coverage, I've never before noted the political history of malaria. Time had an excellent report in the June 21, 2010 issue:
The history of malaria is a long one. Originating in West Africa, it spread to half of humankind by the mid–19th century and has killed tens of millions and infected hundreds of millions more, including eight American Presidents. Malaria played a role in stopping Alexander the Great in India. It contributed to the fall of Rome, the relocation of the Vatican and the U.S. defeat in Vietnam.
In short, historically, great powers have not been immune to this disease.

Alex Perry, the author of the Time story, notes that the U.S. and other affluent countries have contributed billions to fighting malaria over the past half-decade. However, "bad government" commonly leads to failure in particular states.

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