Private sector helps in fight against malaria

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Malaria is a global, devastating disease that adversely impacts both the health and economic productivity of numerous countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, according to a 2001 study co-authored by economist Jeffrey Sachs, the disease imposed an annual growth penalty of about 1.3 percentage points on afflicted African states.

However, due to various interventions, such as insecticide-treated bed nets, residual indoor insecticide spraying, and effective medications, the toll of malaria deaths has somewhat declined in the last decade.

This turnaround is in part due initiatives undertaken in the private sector, since governmental programs in that region are fraught with disorganization and a lack of a public health infrastructure. Take, for instance, AngloCold Ashanti, a billion dollar mining company in Ghana that launched a campaign utilizing the methods described above, which cut the number of malaria infections from 79,237 in 2005 to 16,000 in 2008.

And though the program cost $1.3 million annually to implement, malaria hospitalization bills which were covered by the company dropped from $55,000 per month to just $9,800, while the number of days lost to absenteeism dropped from 6,983 to 282 per month.

Not only did such initiatives save lives, but they were also very cost-effective over the long run, which is why the model is now being adopted by this company s offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mali, and Guinea.

ACSH s Dr. Ross applauds this salutary trend in achieving significant declines in the toll of malaria in Africa. Of course, if there was sufficient resources and will among the national governments, similar approaches to dealing with malaria could lead to even more dramatic declines, with vast benefits in both economic and human suffering parameters.