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This 75-Year-Old Disney Animation of Malaria Is Super Relevant Today


Why Should Global Citizens Care:
The link between malaria and poverty is undeniable. If we can reach our goal to alleviate poverty by 2030, we will also greatly reduce malaria around the world. Malaria is reponsible for taking 429,000 lives ever year. Join us here to take action.

In 1943, Walt Disney created The Winged Scourge, a 10-minute animated video, that is an in-depth look into how malaria spreads and ways that people can prevent it. Although it’s almost 75 years old, it is still more than relevant today.

It’s a beautifully crafted, black-and-white video with hand-drawn animations. Disney takes us through the whole process of how malaria is contracted with a voice-of-god narration, starting with the Anopheles mosquito, the primary carrier of malaria. The short film has an eerie, film-noir feel, similar to The Twilight Zone. Near the end, the narrator reminds us to “remember, there is only one cause of malaria, the mosquito. Destroy the mosquito and you will wipe out the disease.”

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But to add a lighthearted touch, Disney introduces the Seven Dwarfs as a team of fighters to combat the mosquitos.

“We can start by cutting the weeds where the mosquito lays her eggs,” says the narrator, so that the fish can get to more larvae and eat them. (An outdated piece of advice, however, is to pour oil on the water, preventing larvae from hatching.)

The narrator goes into detail about how to use screens, and how important it is to get rid of still water.

Since malaria is still a huge issue today, the famous animation studio of Nick Park is trying to increase education about the deadly mosquito-borne disease, just like Walt Disney. Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace and Gromit, created a two-minute video earlier this year that goes into the history of the disease and then brings it into the present. Aardman worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote the campaign “Malaria Must Die So Millons Can Live.”

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Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk for malaria, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2015, 429,000 people died from malaria and there were about 212 million cases worldwide. Around 90% of yearly deaths due to Malaria take place in Africa, according to NPR.

The suggestions made in the Disney video, such as using mosquito netting and covering up your body with long sleeves, are good, personal ways to combat the spread of malaria. But there are things that communities and governments can do to betters deal with the disease.

There are two main schools of thought on the prevention of malaria. Some experts believe that “high-tech” inventions pose the best solutions, while others believe that improving people’s living conditions will produce the best outcomes, according to NPR. It’s the difference between delivering high-tech mosquito netting and lifting people out of poverty so that they can invest in their own resources to keep malaria at bay.

Malaria’s relationship to poverty is inextricable. It’s frequently referred to as “the epidemic of the poor” according to MalariaWorld. Additionally, “malaria is one of the top four causes of poverty,” according to UN economists who spoke with MalariaWorld. Malaria can cause people to miss work and a person’s death can majorly impact family’s income. Moreover, methods to prevent malaria and to treat it are incredibly costly — from hospital visits to mosquito netting.

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Furthermore, governments have to spend huge amounts of money on health facilities, education, and research. For countries with high numbers of infected people, costs related to malaria can be 40% to 50% of overall public health expenditure, according to MalariaWorld.