Malaria as a terrorist act

We tend to blame mosquitoes and plasmodia species for malaria, when in fact human beings are responsible for much of the suffering. Cetin et al. pointed our recently in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene that, “The annual number of terrorist incidences has been associated with the annual number of malaria cases in these regions of (eastern) Turkey since the beginning of terrorist activity in 1984.”

The authors acknowledge that overt wars destroy public health infrastructure and expose refugees and displaced persons to disease, but also stress that terrorism brings about uncertainties that also increase people’s exposure to malaria. Health workers are intimidated, services like vector control are curtailed and people move to towns and cities, overburdening health services there.

Little is to be gained in arguing over the labeling of what has happened and still occurs in Turkey as terrorism, civil unrest or whatever. Instabilities are breeding grounds for malaria. As Rowland et al., found, 23 years of civil unrest in Afghanistan helped reintroduce malaria into many rural communities.

Wars and civil unrest and the consequent displacement of people are a prime example of the theme of this year’s World malaria Day – a disease without borders. Therefore people who negotiate peace, such as Kofi Annan in his recent efforts in Kenya, are truly partners in rolling back malaria.

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