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Invest in the Future: How Corporations Can Impact Malaria

The word “invest” in the new World Malaria Day theme encourages us to focus our attention on the role of the corporate community.

A recent study completed on behalf of the Roll Back Malaria partnership by Malaria No more and McKinsey and Company, reviewed the potential impact of future business investment on malaria control.  They found that, “According to the McKinsey report, if business were to invest approximately $10.9 billion over 5 years, we’d be able to achieve full coverage of prevention and treatment measures in the most affected African countries.”

chw-akwa-ibom-nigeria-trained-with-corporate-support-demonstrated-malaria-testing-at-community-event-sm.jpgExxonMobil, has contributed broadly to malaria control programs and research both from the headquarters level as well as through its national affiliates.  ExxonMobil Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, has committed $110 million worldwide since 2000 to its Malaria Initiative.  For example, with ExxonMobil Foundation support, Jhpiego conducted proof of concept interventions in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria that showed how community directed interventions (CDI – the foundation approach for onchocerciasis control in Africa) could be adapted to increasing coverage of insecticide treated nets, intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women and community case management for malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia.

Corporate contributions do not have to be direct financing. Corporations have certain skills and mechanisms that can be applied to public health challenges. In a press release The Coca-Cola Company and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria “announced they will expand a project leveraging the Company’s expansive global distribution system and core business expertise to help government and non-governmental organizations deliver critical medicines to remote parts of the world, beginning in rural Africa.” This has been dubbed “Project Last Mile.”

AngloGold Ashanti in Ghana provides another model of corporate involvement.  Starting in 2005, AngloGold began indoor residual spraying (IRS) of all houses in Obuasi District.  Within a few years there was a noticeable drop of 74% in malaria cases in the district health facilities.   Bringing its experience managing a large program in Obuasi, AngloGold as “AngloGold Ashanti Malaria Control Limited,” has become the Principal Recipient of a Global Fund grant in Ghana to conduct IRS in 40 districts.

Corporate involvement in social programs generally and malaria control specifically is obviously not completely without controversy, especially in countries where corporations need to interact with governments that have questionable human rights records.

What is of importance in considering corporate investment in malaria control may not necessarily be the scale of investment, but its quality.  Corporate activities can demonstrate good management practices that should be adopted by other major players in the malaria control arena. Corporate supported projects may provide proof of new concepts that can be taken to scale by national malaria control programs to increase their coverage.  Finally corporate contributions set an example and serve as an advocacy point to encourage national governments to fulfill their own obligations to their citizens.

A longer version of this article will appear in the March 2013 edition of Africa Health.

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