Waging War on Mosquitoes: Scientific Research and the Formation of Mosquito Brigades in French West Africa, 1899–1920

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While the majority of colonial public health officials in Africa intermittently used measures for mosquito containment, the government of French West Africa made the creation of what were called mosquito brigades into a vital element of urban sanitary policy. The project seemed to offer a chance to curb the impact of mosquito-borne disease on the colonial economy. Yet, despite the full support of sanitary policy on the federal, colonial, and local levels, the government found that conducting a “War on Mosquitoes” was far more difficult than they originally envisioned. The colonial government's mosquito brigades were understaffed and often ran into resistance from both the African and European populations. Above all, the government's urban mosquito control programs failed because their goal of controlling the breeding of mosquitoes lay beyond the limited capabilities of the both local government and the Federation's health and sanitation services. This paper will examine the origins and fate of the French West African mosquito brigades and provide a context for analyzing their atypical place among colonial efforts at malaria prevention.

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