- Malaria Drug Blamed for Western
Atrocities in Somalia
Africa News Service
Mogadishu (The East African, May 25, 1999) - A Widely available anti-malarial
drug has been blamed for some of the military excesses committed by Western
troops in Somalia. The drug, mefloquine, is recognised by the World Health
Organisation as one of the most effective drugs against malaria. It is often used
as a preventive treatment against the disease.
Mefloquine is however often associated with severe side-effects, including
depression and hallucinations.
According to an article appearing in a May issue of the British medical journal
Lancet, several soldiers from a 900 member Canadian contingent which served
in the ill-fated UN peace-keeping mission in Somalia between 1992 and 1993
have blamed the drug for their poor judgement during operations, which on at
least one occasion led to the death of innocent Somalis.
The Lancet article is based on a report by Denis Desautels, the Canadian
government auditor-general, which says that the country's military did not follow
accepted protocol while administering mefloquine to Canadian soldiers serving in
the mission. Mef loquine was then still under clinical trial in several countries.
"The drug was obtained through a clinical trial but was given to soldiers without
following the required measures to monitor the effects and keep track of its
distribution," Desautels said.
Canada's Department of Defence has however reportedly brushed aside the
criticism, saying that mefloquine achieved the desired effects of preventing
Inquiries on alleged military misconduct by Western forces during the mission
held in Italy, Canada and France, have revealed details of gross human rights
violations, including rape, torture and murder.