by Emmanuel Fiagbey, VOICES Project – Akosombo, Ghana: April 24, 2012
Volta River Authority (VRA) Heads of Departments and Safety Coordinators become Malaria-Safe Agents
The Volta River Authority, one of the largest body corporates in Ghana with a total workforce of over 3,000 personnel has made yet another move to live up to its motto of â€œSetting standards for public sector excellence in Africa.â€ The Authority with its many operational sites of workers and their families located in Akosombo and Akuse in the Eastern Region, Aboadze in the Western Region, Accra and Tema in the Greater Accra Region, Sunyani and Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region, Tamale, Wa and Bolgatanga in the three northern regions of the country has embarked on efforts to make the authority a Malaria-Safe institution.
As part of activities marking the 2012 World Malaria Day, the Health Dept., Human Resource Dept., and the Project and Systems Monitoring Dept. of the VRA in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs, (JHU-CCP) Voices for a Malaria-free Future project and the National Malaria Control Program, organized a one day training of 15 heads of departments and 30 Safety Coordinators of the Authority at Akosombo with the goal of equipping the officials with the knowledge and skill of operating as Malaria Safe Agents within the authority. Other departments represented at the training included the Environment and Sustainable Development Dept., Engineering Services Dept., Hydro Generation Dept., Thermal Generation Dept., General Services Dept., Real Estates and Utility Services Dept., Northern Electricity Dept., VRA Schools Dept., Corporate Communication Dept. and the Senior Staff Association.
In an opening speech read on his behalf by Mr. William Amuna, Director Project and Systems Monitoring Dept., the Chief Executive Officer of the VRA, Mr. Kweku Andoh Awotwi stated that the position of Safety Coordinators in organizing safety meetings places them in the best position and provides them the best platform to help promote malaria prevention and adoption of effective treatment behaviors among the VRA workforce, staff families and communities around them. â€œI would like to believe that today marks a humble beginning of the collaboration between the Volta River Authority and the JHU-CCP-Voices project for a more effective and efficient implementation of the authorityâ€™s malaria control program.”
In presenting the statistics on malaria cases within the authority, Dr. Rebecca Acquaah-Arhin, Director Health Services Dept. regretted the increase in malaria cases recorded at the authorityâ€™s health facilities in the past three years, (2009-2011) which rose from 10,803 cases in 2009 to 16,241 cases in 2011. Dr. Aquaah-Arhin explained that, in spite of the excellent health services the VRA provides to its workers and their families, and also reaching over 2 million inhabitants along the Volta lake, malaria remains a threat to performance and wellbeing. Stating the impact of the disease on the workforce, she noted that in 2009, 2,324 malaria cases were recorded among employees and their dependants. This rose to 2,523 in 2010 and dropped a little to 2,392 in 2011. Malaria, she stressed cost the VRA 82,943.84 Cedis (approximately $52,000) in 2011 alone, â€œand this is the challenge our partnership with the JHU-CCP Voices project and our Malaria â€“Safe program must lead us in planning and working to resolve,â€ she emphasized.
A National Voice against malaria, Dr. Atsu Seake-Kwawu who led the technical session of the training programme stressed that Safety Coordinators could only operate effectively as Malaria-Safe Agents by remaining continually in touch with current relevant information on the causes, prevention and treatment of malaria and most especially the recommended interventions by the NMCP in managing the disease. He called on all Safety Coordinators at the workplace and also in their communities to ensure the recent mass distribution of LLINs produces positive results by ensuring all who have the nets sleep under them every night. â€œYour role as Malaria-Safe Agents and Safety Coordinators will not be complete if you fail to challenge any health worker, drug distributors etc who will continue to distribute monotherapies such as Chloroquine in your community. ACTs, in particular the AMFm brand must remain your drug of choice for the treatment of all cases of uncomplicated malaria,â€ he stressed.
The VRA Malaria-Safe Strategy which was presented for discussion by the Country Director of the JHU-CCP-Voices for a Malaria Free Future project Mr. Emmanuel Fiagbey outlined the objectives, barriers, opportunities for applying the strategy and actions the Volta River Authority must sponsor in order to make the organization malaria-safe. Among the key functions of the authorityâ€™s Safety Coordinators as Malaria Safe Agents identified during the training workshop were:
- Incorporation of malaria information dissemination and education into the agenda of safety meetings at the workplace and in the community;
- Promotion and dissemination of malaria prevention and treatment messages among the workforce, staff families and communities;
- Facilitation and organization of special workdays to get rid of mosquito breeding sites in workersâ€™ communities;
- Serving as models in the use of ITNs and adoption of other prevention and treatment behaviours among their community members; and
- Ensuring involvement of all departments of the authority in the implementation of the VRA Malaria-Safe Strategy in the three strategic objective areas of;
- Strengthening the workforce against malaria to reduce the effect of malaria and enhance productivity of every worker.
- Empowering mothers/caregivers and children and other dependants of VRA workers to be appropriately engaged in malaria prevention and treatment.
- Engaging surrounding communities as partners and beneficiaries in malaria prevention and treatment.
The VRA Malaria-Safe Strategy which was developed with technical assistance from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs Voices Project and the Asuogyaman DMAT will be finalized and officially launched in November as a major component of the VRAâ€™s annual safety week celebrations.