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Jean-Paul Bado
"Malarial Campaigns in Francophone Africa from the 1940s : A Challenge for Medicine"

Known since many centuries as one of the most important killers, malarial disease was the main obstacle throughout the tropical world which delayed the European expansion : exploration, military conquest, and colonial exploitation of Africa. Again today malaria remains a real impediment to the social and economic development of tropical Africa. The discovery its parasite in 1880 and that of the mosquitoes vectors from 1897, allowed scientists and European colonial powers a glimmer of hope. In fact, since Caventou and Pelletier’s research in 1820, quinine, the efficient drug at that time, was used to prevent malarial fever and to cure its victims, despite the lack of detailed knowledge of the biology and ecology of mosquitoes and the correct dosage in order to avoid its secondary effects. Also, medical scientist did not manage to penetrate the secrets of the plasmodia species causing malaria.

The conquest of Ducht Indies, where the Ducht Companies which had the monopoly of quinquina production by the German troops, obliged France and others colonial powers, as well as the USA and USSR to find other remedies to treat the victims of malaria. The end of the World War II allowed renewed efforts and a global and outstanding campaign to eradicate malaria. So, as early as the First World Assembly which took place in 1948, a programme on Malaria was accepted as one of the subjects of top priority of World Health Organization until the 1970s.

This paper is mostly about the campaigns organized to fight malaria when the insecticides (DDT, dieldrin, etc) and later the chemical antimalarial drugs promised to eradicate this parasitosis disease. France which had undertaken the struggle in different colonial towns over many years, tooked advantage of the international enthousiasm to launch many pilot campaigns in its African territoires, including Thiès in Senegal, Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, Porto-Novo in Benin, Yaoundé and Garoua in Cameroun, Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville in Congo, Ndjamena in Tchad, Bangui in Centrafrica, Libreville in Gabon, etc were concerned. The beginning of success in the capital (cities) coincided with the discoveries of many cases of mosquitoes resistances to insecticides and parasite resistance to chemical drugs. Also, African independence led to the dysfonction of medical structures and disorganization of anti-malaria campaigns.

One of the questions raised in this paper is that despite the international scientific community’s willingness, the campaigns against malaria were not seriously prepared. Also the optimistic discourse on eradication or pre-eradication, later elimination concealed the intrinsic problems of malaria encountered by practitionners and people’s behaviours concerning antimalarial drugs. Will a roll back to malarial launched in 1998 be a solution to control malarial disease in Africa and tropical world if one considers that between. 1946 to 1978, four important campaigns have had no effect on eliminating it.

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