Money, Migration and Mosquitoes: A Study of Malaria’s Social Context in Vietnam

Banjamin S. Grimmnitz, Middlebury College

Viet Nam: Culture and Development


Malaria has taken more human lives throughout history than any other disease. The technologically motivated global effort to eradicate malaria in the 1950s and 1960s offered humanity a brief window of hope, but soon efforts began to stagnate. Malaria began reclaiming territory along with millions of lives. In the 1990s, while the malaria situation worldwide continued to deteriorate, Vietnam began an impressive National Malaria Control Program. This essay examines Vietnam as a case study in malaria control and explores the interplay between migration, poverty and malaria.

Twenty-one interviews were conducted in Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho City and Soc Trang province with health officials, malaria experts and previous malaria patients. Interviewees were asked to discuss their personal experiences with malaria and malaria control. These interviews in conjunction with relevant historical, medical and social science literature provide an in depth look at the history of malaria control in Vietnam.

Poverty and migration are the two most important risk factors for malaria infection in the South of Vietnam. Throughout the research it became clear that these two factors are intimately connected to one another. Bearing this in mind, the program could be further improved through integration of poverty alleviation campaigns. Nonetheless, the program has already achieved impressive results by dedicating the necessary fiscal and human resources, integrating the vertically structured malaria control program into the preexisting primary healthcare network, and insisting on equal care for all people.