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Business News of Friday, 27 November 2015

Source: B&FT

Malaria costs economy over US$735 million annually

File photo: Dollar note File photo: Dollar note

Malaria continues to be the leading cause of outpatient attendance in the country’s hospitals and death among children under five years, costing the economy over US$735million a year through lost productivity in the corporate sector, Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Victor Asare Bampoe has said.

“Beyond health, malaria affects our capacity to attain the level of health for our work force that industry and corporate sector needs to support development of this country.

“If we do not do anything now to reduce the health and economic burden of this disease, our development aspirations will all remain beautiful dreams and we will continue to pass on the curse of poverty to our children,” he stated.

Dr. Bampoe was speaking at a corporate malaria breakfast meeting in Accra that brought together corporate institutions, individuals, policymakers, corporate sector officials, the media, development partners and other industries; he called for increased attention toward reducing the malaria footprint in Ghana.

The meeting was jointly organised by the National Malaria Control Programme and UNICEF to share the current strategic framework and encourage businesses’ help in the fight against malaria.

Dr. Bampoe indicated that the country continues to bear the burden of malaria as a major public health challenge.

He explained that Ghanaian businesses spend an average of 0.5 percent of annual corporate returns on treatment of malaria in employees and their dependents, 0.3 percent on malaria prevention, and 0.5 percent on other health-related corporate social responsibilities.

Available data show that in 2014 about 8.4 million cases of out-patient department malaria were recorded, representing about 23.6 % of all out-patient attendances. This translates into approximately 23,299 cases seen per day during 2014 in all health facilities.

Studies have shown that about 30 days of work in a year is lost on average due to malaria. The disease also continues to prevent many schoolchildren from attending school due to illness, diminishing their capacity to realise their full potential.

This shows how malaria continues to have a severe social-economic impact on populations. It is one of the causes of household poverty, because it results in absenteeism from the daily activities of productive living and income generation.

The last decade has however witnessed unprecedented progress in malaria prevention and control in the country.

“As a ministry, we will continue to work with stakeholders and partners to carry out advocacy for increased mobilisation of domestic and external funding, and providing guidance regarding appropriate malaria control policies and interventions,” he said.

Dr. Keziah Malm, acting Programme Manager, National Malaria Control Programme, making a presentation explained that between 2000 and 2014 malaria-associated mortality declined by 65% across all age groups; and that these milestones could not have been achieved without support from the global coalition of partners -- including government, the Global Fund, World Health Organisation, USAID, UNICEF, DfID and other NGOs.

She confirmed that the involvement of volunteers, health workers, and religious and community leaders has amounted to a major social mobilisation crusade in support of the malaria control effort.

“These gains notwithstanding, much more needs to be done to accelerate progress toward achieving national and regional malaria targets.

“In this regard, the role of corporate institutions cannot be over-emphasised. In many countries of the African region and across the globe, ministries of health, civil society organisations and other stakeholders are bringing malaria prevention and treatment services closer and closer to the doorsteps of the people.”

Dr. Kezier Malm, the acting Programme Manager of the National Malaria Control (NMCP), has advised corporate businesses to establish workplace malaria control activities to help reduce the high incidences of malaria and protect their health.

She said malaria is taking a heavy toll on Ghanaian businesses, resulting in each employee losing 30 working days annually to malaria -- noting that the economic cost of malaria to businesses in Ghana in 2014 alone was on average GH¢20,000, with 90% of the total cost being direct costs and the 10% being indirect cost-absenteeism.

She added: “Corporate institutions and individuals need to take full advantage of positive developments by supporting, in diverse ways, the implementation of proven malaria control interventions in their workplaces, communities and respective homes.

“Such support can be the procurement of rapid diagnostic task kits and the provision of appropriate treatment using safe and effective medicines.

“In the area of presentation, communities and employees must be supported and empowered to use long-lasting insecticide-treated nets; and and pregnant women must take the necessary prophylaxis against malaria.”

Dr. Malm therefore called on all to support national efforts and mobilise the financial and human resources needed to make quality medicines and commodities available and affordable to all communities and individuals, so that malaria will be defeated.

“We must all ensure that our workers and their families have adequate access to cost-effective malaria interventions for prevention and treatment,” she said.

Ms. Rushnan Murtaza, Deputy Representative UNICEF explained that malaria is one of the leading causes of illness in the country, and that despite its devastating effects, the importance of a malaria-free environment in promoting economic development and poverty reduction has not been fully appreciated in most countries.

Commenting on global trends, she said malaria as a disease continues to be challenging worldwide; with over 3 billion people at risk of contracting the disease, the significant cross-cutting impact is the major burden that malaria places on health systems.

She indicated that in sub-Saharan Africa malaria accounts for one-third of all out-patient visits and up to 45% of all hospital admissions.

In some part of the world there has been some progress. 10 years ago, Burundi was able to achieve a 40% decline in malaria cases. The southern province of Zambia reduced malaria deaths by 90% over the same period. This shows that Ghana can overcome the prevalence of malaria among children and pregnant women.

Mr. Prince Kofi Amoabeng -- the retired Chief Executive of UT Holdings -- was appointed as official Malaria Ambassador at the ceremony, and immediately called for the establishment of a Malaria Foundation that will be private sector-led and managed to help eradicate malaria from the country.