Region grapples with malaria

South African companies are worried about the effects of malaria on their businesses over the next five years, with about 11 percent saying they expect a “serious impact”.

These views are contained in a report released recently by the World Economic Forum Global Health Initiative.

A total of 96 South African companies were included in the survey of more than 10 000 companies internationally, which showed that 72 percent of businesses in sub-Saharan Africa were affected by malaria and 39 percent reported a serious business impact.

Absenteeism from work was a direct contributor to increased business costs. Adults with malaria missed about one to five days of work each time the parasite became active.

In Zimbabwe, official figures show that by the end of June, up to 847 people had succumbed to malaria from 450 000 cases recorded since the start of the year.

In one week in June, as many as 19 people died as a result of malaria complications out of 14 000 cases reported.

Health Ministry officials said most of the deaths were in the northern town of Bindura, in the capital Harare, and in the southern towns of Hwange and Bulawayo. There have been more malaria deaths in Zimbabwe this year than in previous years due to heavy rains.

Health authorities also cite lack of medicines, especially in remote medical centres.

More than 450 000 people have been treated for malaria, which is one of Zimbabwe’s main killer diseases.

In Malawi, the World Bank Board of Directors has approved an International Development Association grant of US$5 million for the Health Sector Support Project, an additional grant to scale up activities in malaria monitoring and evaluation.

Malaria accounts for 18 percent of all hospital deaths in Malawi and the entire population of 11 million is at risk of contracting malaria.

The additional grant is expected to improve management and decision-making and build capacity for monitoring and evaluation of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) and the Malawi Health Sector Wide Approach (SWAp).

The government of Malawi has a strong commitment to controlling malaria because of the significant negative impact it can have on achieving the aims of the SWAp programme and the Millennium Development Goals.

The 2001-2005 Malawi Malaria Strategic Plan made several advances in the areas of prevention and, based on its achievements to date, Malawi’s NMCP has been acknowledged as one of the strongest programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Malawi’s new Malaria Strategic Plan (2005-2010) builds on the achievements of the previous five-year plan, and consistent with the Abuja Declaration and the Roll Back Malaria targets, aims to halve malaria mortality and morbidity by the year 2010.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a bout of malaria costs the equivalent of 10 days in terms of lost labour.

Lost production as a result of malaria was estimated at between 2 percent and 6 percent of Kenya’s growth domestic product (GDP) and between 1 percent and 5 percent of Nigeria’s GDP.

Companies rolling out workplace and community programmes targeted at the eradication of malaria could promote productivity and stimulate growth, the report said.

BHP Billiton reported losses of US$2,7 million (R19 million) related to absenteeism, illness and medical costs after the company was hit by 2 000 cases of malaria in two years at its Mozal smelter in Mozambique.

However, the company has joined a public-private partnership, the Lubombo spatial development initiative, which runs a malaria control programme. Besides reaping decreased costs related to malaria, BHP Billiton has built a second smelter in the region.

In Zambia, Konkola Copper Mines launched a prevention campaign using the concept of household spraying.

During the first five months, malaria incidence dropped 57 percent from the previous year.

According to the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, economies with a high malaria prevalence grew 1,3 percentage points less a year than other economies between 1965 and 1990.

Malaria causes more than 1 million deaths each year, accounting for 2 percent of total global deaths.

Meanwhile, South Africa culled close to 10 000 ostriches recently to contain an outbreak of a less virulent strain of avian flu in the Western Cape, the department of agriculture has said.

While the department reiterated that the H5N2 outbreak was under control, it said it suspected that ostriches in other areas may have been exposed to the virus. But it stressed that the disease had not been detected elsewhere.

“The outbreak of avian influenza in ostriches has been brought under control by the culling of ostriches. Follow-up investigations show no sign of disease in the area surrounding the outbreak,” said the department.

The H5N2 bird flu is deadly to animals but, unlike the highly pathogenic H5N1 variety, is not a threat to humans.

The European Union has banned imports of ostriches and their meat from two districts in South Africa because of the outbreak.

South Africa has also banned exports from the areas.

August 2006
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