Today is World Malaria Day. Although malaria has been eradicated from much of the western world, it still kills over a million people each year. It is also strongly linked to conflict. When people are forced to flee their homes, they often end up living in areas were malaria-carrying mosquitos are prevalent and they have little or no access to healthcare. Malaria is a very serious problem in Africa, where one in five childhood deaths are due to the effects of the disease. An African child has an average of between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year.
Soldiers fighting in areas where malaria is present are also at risk. In the Second World War, the Royal Air Force’s Anti-Malaria Control Unit attemted to combat the disease with techniques such as spraying DDT powder over swamp land in an effort to eradicate mosquitos.
Well over half of the 20,000 killed in the Boer War (1899-1902) died as a result of disease. This is illustrated starkly on this Boer War memorial to the East Kent Regiment (the Buffs). In the 3rd Battalion two men were killed in action and 29 died from disease.
It is not uncommon to see memorials from this period indicating which casualties were a result of disease, a practice that is largely absent from later memorials, illustrating that deaths from disease were far less numerous.