In case you were wondering what could go wrong if the United States’ government began to collapse under the weight of its debt, Greece is currently providing a depressing case study. One result of its economic woes is the reemergence of malaria:
Over the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of the mosquito-borne parasitic illness and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece. No one has died yet, but the disease can be debilitating and recur for years.
The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge. Since then, Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.
Even as alarms sounded, Greece’s spiraling economic crisis was taking its toll on the country’s public-health services. To help meet debtors’ demands, the government has slashed local-government budgets by 60% over the past three years as it saddled local governments with more health-care responsibilities.
Provincial governments, which used to help control malaria by aerial spraying of insecticides to kill mosquito larvae, were abolished in 2011, leaving it unclear who would take over. Amid the cutbacks, few local governments made it a priority.