A note on malaria in Greece

In a piece in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper Jon Henley reports on how cutbacks to Greek health services have led to a sharp rise in communicable diseases in the country. It’s a sobering piece, and I recommend all philhellenes to read it and to consider donating to Médecins sans Frontières Greece or other medical agencies working here. However, I also want to add a word of reassurance for those considering visiting Greece this year. The article says that malaria has become endemic in Greece — which seems pretty frightening. But, while true, the claim isn’t as scary as it sounds. ‘Endemic’ simply means that cases of the disease have been contracted in the country, rather than carried in from abroad; it doesn’t mean that the disease is running riot. In fact, there have been very few cases of malaria in Greece, and most of them have been confined to a farming region in the south of the Peloponnese, where conditions particularly favour the disease. (The phrase ‘south of the country’, used in the article, means ‘south of the mainland’, not the southern islands, such as Crete.) For more details, see this article in the journal Eurosurveillance and this update from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. There is some information on action being taken to combat the outbreak in this report by the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Google translation here). See also the UK’s National Health Service advice page on Greece.

Of course, one should not be complacent, and all visitors should check the latest travel advice issued by their government. Moreover, we should all heed Jon Henley’s warnings about effects of cutbacks in the Greek health services. But as a Greek resident with a young family, I am not worried about malaria, and I continue to encourage my family and friends to visit this beautiful country.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Finisterre67.

Stephen Fry's modest proposal

Stephen Fry is, in his own words, ‘a philhellene who believes that any debt Greece may be in now is as nothing compared to the debt we owe Greece’ (email to the site editor 12/3/12).

In December 2011, Stephen wrote an article entitled ‘A modest proposal’, in which he reflected on our Greek heritage and argued for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from London to Athens, for display in the new Acropolis Museum. Such an act, he argued, timed to coincide with the UK’s hosting of the Olympic Games, would be a beautiful gesture, demonstrating gratitude to, and solidarity with, a country that has given the world so much and is currently suffering so greatly:

Greece made us. We owe them. They are ready for [the Marbles’] return and have never needed such morale boosting achievement more. And it would be so graceful, so apt, so right.

What greater gesture could be made to Greece in its time of appalling financial distress? An act of friendship, atonement and an expression of faith in the future of the cradle of democracy would be so, well just so damned classy.

It would also, Stephen notes, be the perfect way to honour the memory of the late Christopher Hitchens, a fellow philhellene who argued vigorously for the return of the Marbles.

I urge everyone to read Stephen’s passionate, eloquent, and witty piece and to get involved in the campaign for the reunification of the Marbles. Greeks are tired, dispirited, and deeply worried for their children’s future. The restoration of the Marbles would be a powerful expression of moral support, which would lift Greeks’ spirits and boost their confidence. As Stephen emphasizes, it is right thing to do, and this is the right time to do it.