War and Malaria

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the US Civil War. The most common number of deaths attributed to that war is 620,000, a number that surpasses mortality in all other US wars from independence to Vietnam. Ironically two-thirds of these deaths were from disease.

Reports have it that, ” Surgeons from both sides of the Civil War called malaria “ague”,”shakes”, or “intermittent fever”; the illness accounted for 20 percent of all sickness during the war.” This was at a time when people believed that, “… malaria was caused by poisonous vapors emanating from ponds and swamps. While many of the men noted in their diaries the swarms of mosquitoes that attacked during warmer months, and the ensuing sickness that enveloped the camp, they never put the two together.”

Concerning mortality, it was estimated that malaria was responsible for three out of five Federal casualties and two out of three Confederates during the US Civil War. Of course during thie period malaria was commonly misdiagnosed, but “it is estimated that malaria was responsible for killing a full quarter of all servicemen during this time.”

small-wdr-2011-report.jpgTo this day war and malaria are still unfortunate comrads.  A war in malaria endemic regions also disrupts health services for civilians, bring greater misery to the population.

According to the BBC, a new World Bank report questions the focus of aid that emphasizes helping after conflicts and civil wars rather than on preventing conflict in the first place. Violent areas today have a history of violence, and building up health and education infrastructure will not be a sustainable endeavor if the next civil war tears these down.

Peace prevents malaria.

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