The Diplomatic Burden of Pandemics: The Case of Malaria

Year: 2020 HiCN Working Paper No. 330

This paper seeks to understand the extent of the disruptions to international relations caused by pandemics, focusing on one globally-prevalent example: malaria. We posit that protracted pandemics have the potential to undermine the political ties of nation states, as well as the many benefits of these connections. Foreign countries generally avoid sending their envoys to host states with high level of malaria prevalence, reducing any diplomatic activity to bare minimum. This argument is tested empirically using both directed-dyadic and monadic data, while incorporating methods that account for endogeneity and other relevant concerns. We find that the geographic malaria rates of a country not only serve to historically discourage foreign governments from establishing diplomatic outposts on a country’s soil, but also lead to an aggregate decrease in the total diplomatic missions that a country receives. We then discuss the current implications of these findings.