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Malaria, a political disease

April 7, 2021 - 16:51 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

Yesterday I was reading a very interesting Forum Interview from 1998 with Dr Mohyeddin A. Farid about malaria eradication, titled "The malaria campaign - why not eradication?"  where malaria is discussed as a political disease. Dr Farid worked for the World Health Organization from 1949 until his retirement in 1972. Because malaria is intertwined with socioeconomic development he discussed malaria as a political disease and stated that "It is an explosive disease, not a silent one. When epidemics cause too much suffering, the people revolt and can bring about governmental changes...".

But malaria is also a political disease because elimination will do the government of a malaria-free country a lot of good. However, governments need to be careful not to cheer too early and stop or reduce the funding of malaria programs when a country has reached near malaria elimination. We know what will happen next. Malaria will bounce back harder than before. We cannot stop what we have started before we reach zero.

And that makes me realise that indeed diseases are political. We see that COVID-19 causes a lot of suffering. It is not just the people but also governments that revolt and cut their malaria funding budgets so drastically that it will hit the road to malaria eradication very hard. It is a game of money and power. We should focus on the eradication of malaria, and not on the eradication of malaria programs. So much for politics.

Let me know what you think!

Further reading:
World Forum, 1998. Forum Interview - The malaria campaign - why not eradication?


Submitted by Miles Markus on

Governments aside, I'm wondering to what extent "politics" within the world of malariologists also affects funding for malaria programs in whatever parts of the globe. Just asking.

A few years ago, someone in the USA commented to me, after failing several times to secure grants, that she thought that perhaps too much in the way of "politics" was going on in the malaria field (cf. grant application reviewers).

Could this be part of the problem?

Submitted by Anonymized User (not verified) on

With reference to the previous comment, it is tempting to interpret the recent US$30 million PATH-associated funding involving only Western institutions as an example of malarial politics in action.