Obituary: Professor Basia Zaba

It is with great sadness that we announce that Basia Zaba, Professor of Medical Demography at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, passed away on Thursday 12 July. Her family was with her at the time. She will be hugely missed by many – not just in the School, but around the world. She leaves an enormous legacy, primarily through her work on demographic estimation and population-level HIV surveillance, and her mentorship and guidance of generations of demographers in the School and overseas.

Basia started her long association with the School in 1975 when she enrolled to study Medical Demography. She stayed on to work as a Research Fellow, leaving in 1980 to spend 8 years in Trinidad. She initially worked for the UN Economic Commission for Latin America, and later took a part-time position at the University of the West Indies, to tie in with her new family responsibilities. On her return to LSHTM in 1988 she was awarded an ESRC fellowship that enabled her to conduct fieldwork in Mwanza, Tanzania. This convinced her that HIV/AIDS was the outstanding health, demographic and development problem facing the region, and since the mid-90s she worked more or less exclusively in this field. Her far-sighted, seminal work in this area – including the establishment of the ALPHA network of population surveillance sites – led to increasing international recognition and internal promotion. Basia became Professor of Medical Demography in June 2008 and Head of the Department of Population Health in August 2015.

Basia was diagnosed with cancer in early 2016.  With her typical passion for science, she promptly enrolled in a clinical trial for a novel therapy and got on with her life, continuing to work with undimmed drive and enthusiasm. She simply took an occasional day off to undergo rounds of therapy. She even continued as Head of Department until May last year, and only stopped coming into the Department a few weeks ago, when her illness took a sudden and very serious turn for the worse.

She was a keen cyclist, a massive fan of Manchester United and great fun to be around. She has been, and will continue to be, a huge inspiration to many.

Basia’s funeral will take place on 7 August. If you would like details of the funeral arrangements, please email us at

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