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Africa in the News: Humanitarianism and Capitalism find Harmony in Ghana

 Humanitarianism and Capitalism find Harmony in Ghana

One company in Ghana has recently discovered that fighting malaria and increasing worker productivity go hand in hand. Throughout the world, Malaria “kills almost 800, 000 adults and children worldwide, 90% of them in Africa” yet is a totally preventable and curable disease when the appropriate medication is available. These deplorable figures are in addition to the estimated cost of “$12 billion annually in lost productivity” due to malaria plaguing the African workforce. AngloGold Ashanti, a gold mining and marketing company based in Johannesburg, South Africa, has shifted their malaria policy from reactionary to preventative in an attempt to increase worker productivity. Their program targets malaria prevention not only for their own employees, but for the entire community. Their efforts have led to “massive reductions in productivity losses, school absenteeism, infant mortality and treatment costs.”

 

Malaria is a serious obstacle for AngloGold Ashanti’s business in Ghana as it can be for many companies operating throughout Africa.  Steve Knowles, AngloGold Ashanti’s Director for Malaria Control, even went so far to say that “there was no doubt that malaria was the biggest threat to us as a company.” In fact, “in 2005 the Obuasi Mine Hospital was seeing a staggering average of 6,800 malaria patients per month, of a workforce of 8,000.” This resulted in nearly “7,500 man shifts lost per month” and a cost to the company of “$55,500 per month” for malaria treatment medication. After the implementation of the company’s new preventative policy, which “consisted of killing the mosquitoes through indoor residual spraying, preventing the mosquitoes from biting with nets, screening and repellants, controlling breeding via environmental management and anti-malarial drugs…the average monthly cost of treatment has… declined from $55,000 to just over $6,000 and the lost man-days due to malaria has been reduced from almost 7,000 per month to just over 160.” This is not to mention the effects of the program in the larger community which has experienced “an average decline of over 5, 800 cases per month (75%)” as well as a 70 percent increase in school attendance and a reduction in malaria caused infant mortality rate to zero.

 

The project’s success has attracted attention from the Ghanaian government and international organizations. Ghana has recently partnered with AngloGold Ashanti and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to “scale up” the program’s model and increase its reach to 40 new districts throughout the country. Knowles also commented on Ghana’s “very robust health system and infrastructure” which provided doctors, nurses and clinics for the area and allowed the program to be implemented in the first place. Although the treatment of malaria, and other diseases which disproportionately affect the poor, are often seen as humanitarian exercises with insurmountable costs, this program demonstrates that addressing diseases like malaria are actually cost effective and in the economic interest of private companies and worldwide industries.

 

Resource:  Thom, Anso. "Ghana: Malaria Investment Pays Off." Health-e News Service. AllAfrica.com, 5 May 2011. <http://allafrica.com/stories/201105091214.html>.

 

Additional Information

A report from Roll Back Malaria, “Business Investing in Malaria Control: Economic Returns and a Healthy Workforce for Africa”:  http://www.rollbackmalaria.org/ProgressImpactSeries/report6.html

 

An article on the cost of malaria to Africa: http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsworld.php?id=584465

 

An article from ‘Modern Ghana’ on the economic benefits of malaria control: http://www.modernghana.com/news/327494/1/new-report-shows-that-private-sector-investment-in.html


Discussion Questions

1.       Do you think realizing the economic benefits of malaria control will have a big influence on the eradication of the disease? Why or why not?

2.       What types of communities will benefit from private industry sponsored malaria control efforts? Which will not?

3.       Who should take primary responsibility for reducing the impact of malaria on Africa countries? Why?

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