Operation Cat Drop
Early years of malaria treatment

In the early 1950s, the Dayak people in Borneo suffered from malaria. The World Health Organization had a solution: they sprayed large amounts of DDT to kill the mosquitoes which carried the malaria. The mosquitoes died, the malaria declined; so far, so good.

But there were side-effects. Among the first was that the roofs of people’s houses began to fall down on their heads. It seemed that the DDT was also killing a parasitic wasp which had previously controlled thatch-eating caterpillars. Worse, the DDT-poisoned insects were eaten by geckoes, which were eaten by cats. The cats started to die, the rats flourished, and the people were threatened by outbreaks of sylvatic plague and typhus.

To cope with these problems, which it had itself created, the World Health Organization was obliged to parachute live cats into Borneo.


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23-Feb-2019