They called him The Great Liberator. slotxo His name was Mehmet Aziz and he was behind one of Cyprus's most important achievements of the last century. And yet no-one apart from a handful of Cypriots has heard of him.
Aziz was a Turkish Cypriot health official who ensured that Cyprus became the first malarial country in the world to completely eradicate the disease.
Known to his compatriots as "the fly man", he had studied under Nobel-prize winning malaria specialist Sir Ronald Ross, who had found the type of mosquito that transmitted the disease. I came across Aziz's story accidentally in the course of researching a book about British colonial Cyprus.
By 1936, Cyprus - then a British colony - was known as one of the world's most malarial countries, with around 18,000 cases every year.
The disease was particularly devastating for children. One elderly man, recalling his childhood, explained that "an awful lot of youngsters never made it, others were not fit to do a day's work after contracting the disease".
Military-style campaign against malaria
Ten years later, Aziz, in his capacity as chief health inspector, secured a grant from the Colonial Development Fund to eradicate the malaria-transmitting anopheles mosquito from Cyprus.
He planned his campaign along military lines, dividing the entire island up into 500 grids, each of which could be covered by one man over 12 days.
His team worked their way systematically through the grid plan, metre by painstaking metre, bombarding all sources of standing water (including drinking wells) with DDT.
What is malaria?
Malaria is a preventable, curable disease caused by Plasmodium parasites, spread to people by the bites of female mosquitoes in search of a blood meal.
Once infected, people become very sick: the parasites infect cells in the liver and red blood cells. Eventually the disease affects the whole body, including the brain, and can be fatal.
In 2019 there were 229 million cases worldwide and an estimated 409,000 deaths, two-thirds of them children.