The 1958 Malaria Epidemic in Ethiopia

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  • International Cooperation Administration, Washington, D. C.


An epidemic of malaria, covering about 100,000 square miles in four central provinces in the highlands of Ethiopia and portions of the highlands of five other provinces, was observed in Ethiopia between June and December of 1958. The altitudinal limits of the epidemic ranged approximately between 1,600 to 2,150 meters elevation, in which area the communal immunity of the habitants is low for the most part. The estimate of the number of malaria cases attributed to the epidemic is estimated to be not less than three million cases. Deaths from malaria may have exceeded 150,000.

Anopheles gambiae was the only vector involved. Plasmodium falciparum was the predominant malaria parasite. It accounted for the severe acute illness which characterized the clinical syndrome of most cases and the high mortality observed in many districts. Food shortages in 1958, due to 1957 crop failures in some areas, also indirectly contributed to high mortality.

The main precipitating cause of the 1958 epidemic appears to have been unusual weather conditions in the highland areas of Ethiopia. Rainfall exceeded all other previous years on record, and abnormally high atmospheric temperature and relative humidity prevailed.

Author Notes

Present address: USOM/Peru, c/o American Embassy, Lima, Peru.