hey called him The Great Liberator. 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"
pioneered a technique to minimise its use, pouring a thin petroleum film on to water surfaces to prevent mosquito larvae from hatching. According to the Cyprus Review of June 1948, "every pool and stream and area of water-logged ground" was sprayed with insecticide. Even the hoof-prints of animals were treated. Aziz's men waded into marshes and were lowered into caves by ropes.