In Somaliland, the worst epidemic took place in 1935± 36, which is still remembered in the Somali traditions as `Duuma Laaye’ (Season of Death by Malaria). It coincided with the two things. First, heavy rains. Second, the 1935±1936 Italian conquest of Ethiopia and the movement of refugees from Ethiopia to Somaliland. The refugees probably introduced a new strain into the country, which infected mosquitoes and led to the occurrence of the epidemic. The medical staff never understood the socio-political aspect of the transmission of the disease. They, however, recognized the newness of the occurrence of the disease in epidemic form. Consequently, they insisted that the only remedy for the epidemic was “not so much to effect a cure of the individual as to stave off the more serious effects… so that in time the native may develop a certain degree of immunity” (Donaldson, 1936). Between October 1935 and February 1936, the epidemic killed in the Nogal and Bohotleh areas, about five thousand people (Kittermaster, 1936).

The 1935 epidemic began in the last quarter of the year. Heavy rains fell in September and October in the Nogal and Haud. The areas hit most seriously were Las Anod, Adad, Ain, Bohotleh and Las Cidleh (in the Guban). Las Anod suffered the most. Dr. Clark visited the town and reported that the “great majority of the people in the town were infected: house to house visits revealed an appallingly high proportion of cases of fever”. Although he gave no specific number as to the number of people who died in Las Anod, he concluded nonetheless “There can be no doubt that there have been a great many deaths (Clark, 1935). The epidemic died out at the beginning of December. However, in January 1936, heavy rains fell which renewed the epidemic. Many of the cases that Dr. Clark saw in the Nogal, for instance, were ”cases of long-standing, some of them had been ill for three or four months and all had been ill for at least one month’ (Clark, 1936). In the Nogal area, Dr. Clark visited one hundred and seventeen karias (settlements) and “treated three hundred and five cases of malaria”. Overall, there “had been two hundred and three deaths” in the one hundred and seventeen karias he visited in the Nogal. In one karia he visited, he found seven children. The eldest girl of about fifteen told him “that both their father and their mother had died (of malaria) during the month of Ramadan”. He examined all the seven children and found that they were infected. He then contacted their uncle, whom he found to be a “typical case of Malarial Cachexia, wasted, emaciated and anemic”. Clark (1936) concluded that

As regards the mortality in one hundred and seventeen karias there were two hundred and three deaths. This gives a mortality of 1.73 per karia on average. If we allow thirty people to the karia… we get mortality of 5.76% of the total inhabitants. If the total population of those parts of the Nogal, Haud, and Ain is a hundred thousand… the total number of deaths from Malaria would be about five thousand seven hundred.


His statistics were unscientific, to say the least. Dr. Donaldson in a discussion he had with Mr. Alder of the Colonial Office stated that “5,000 deaths were a considerable overestimate” (Alder, 1936). He had a problem essentially with the way the estimate was done. Dr. Clark’s “estimate of the mortality figures”, Dr. Donaldson argued, “can only be a very rough and ready one and his calculations would not pass muster with Registrar General!” He nonetheless pointed out that the epidemic was a “more serious outbreak than has occurred in these parts in previous years” (Donaldson, 1936).

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.