Mosquitoes and History
In 1801, Napoleon
Bonaparte was reaching the peak of his power, and he was determined to recapture
lost empire in the Americas. He dispatched 30,000 troops to Hispaniola
under the command of his brother-in-law, Charles
Leclerc, with the goal of defeating the Haitian
Revolution that had freed the island’s slaves in 1791 and deprived France of
millions in sugar revenues.
expedition faced little opposition when it landed. Outmatched Haitian troops quickly
melted into the mountains and began preparations to fight a long guerrilla war.
But the tide turned when the
French were overwhelmed by yellow fever and malaria, two diseases against
which they had no immunity. By the time the expeditionary force abandoned Haiti
in 1803, only 3,000 soldiers remained.
expedition is just one example of the huge role that mosquitoes – and the
diseases they transmit – have played in human history. The Hispaniola debacle
helped establish Haiti as the second independent republic in the Americas
(after the United States). It also put an end to Napoleon’s ambitions in the
Americas. He soon sold the
massive French territory of Louisiana, which spanned one million square
miles of land between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, to Thomas Jefferson. That
event, in turn, would transform U.S. history.
Making Malaria History in Hispaniola
later, we have a new opportunity to make history in Hispaniola. This time, the
goal is to eliminate malaria from the island once and for all. Malaria was an
unlikely ally of Haiti’s citizens in 1801, but it has imposed a heavy burden
Haiti had more
than 25,000 confirmed cases of malaria in 2013, and malaria
remains a leading cause of death and disability for Haitian mothers and
children under five, two groups that are especially vulnerable to the disease.
Malaria also imposes a significant economic burden both on Haiti and the
are infected with the malaria parasite are likely to suffer relapses that cause
them to miss work and school, and periodic malaria epidemics can have a
devastating impact on tourism, a mainstay of Hispaniola’s economy. In 2004, one
malaria outbreak cost the Dominican Republic an estimated $200 million in lost
Gates Foundation is pleased to announce that we are providing $29.9 million to the Haiti Malaria Elimination
Consortium (HaMEC)] to achieve the elimination of malaria from Hispaniola
by 2020. I am confident that HaMEC will reach this goal because this innovative
partnership will bring together committed grassroots health workers with global
experts in public health, led by the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Foundation.
Other key HaMEC
partners include the Pan American Health
Organization, the Carter
Center, the Clinton Health
Access Initiative, the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Tulane
University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
successful, HaMEC will mark the final step in eliminating malaria from the
Caribbean. And a parallel effort to eliminate malaria from Central America will
soon get underway with support from the Global Fund. This means that we could witness the elimination of malaria
from every nation in North America within a decade.
How You Can Help
foundation’s contribution to HaMEC will help get operations underway, the total
effort to eliminate malaria from Haiti is expected to cost about $80 million
over five years, and the CDC Foundation is leading efforts to mobilize the
required funds from other donors, including individuals and community groups.
To learn how
you can support the effort to make malaria history in Hispaniola, visit the CDC