Ghana: Anglogold Ashanti, Global Fund to Fight Malaria

Tim Hinchliffe | 13 Jun 2023
Ghanaian Chronicle
AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) and the Global Fund are teaming up to increase Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) to 40 districts across the country, as part of an integrated malaria control programme, according an AGA press release.

The scaling up of IRS as a malaria control intervention follows a successful pilot implementation by AGA in the gold mining town of Obuasi and its surrounding communities, which has resulted in a 75% reduction in malaria cases within the past two years.

The Global Fund has approved $130 million to enable AGA boost the programme over a five year period, after the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) selected the company as the principle recipient of the grant.

The malaria control programme currently, has zonal offices in Obuasi and Wa, and it will create a projected 3,800 jobs for the targeted communities over the next five years.

According to the Director of the Malaria Control Programme, Mr. Steve Knowles, the malaria project demonstrates AGA's commitment to making communities better off for AngloGold Ashanti having been there.

"We strive to form partnerships with host communities, sharing their environment, traditions, and values, as we work together with the communities in which we operate to initiate health, social, and environmental projects to impact their well-being," said Mr. Knowles in the press release, adding that the programme would be a "win-win" situation for both the company and the community.

The Obuasi Integrated Malaria Control Programme began six years ago with $1.7 million and the aim of reducing incidences of malaria by 50% over two years. The average monthly cost of medication has since dropped from $55,000 in 2005, to $510 in 2012.

In 2005, the Obuasi Mine Hospital (Edwin Cade) saw on average about 6,800 malaria patients per month. Of these cases, 2,500 were mine employees, and with an average of three days off per patient that equated to 7,500 shifts lost per month.

Adding to the lost shifts, the slow work rate that comes during the malaria recuperation period also resulted in a major loss in production.

Total lost man days per month, due to malaria, have also dropped significantly from 6,983 in 2005, to only 90 per month so far this year.

Overall, there has been an average decline of over 5,800 cases of malaria per month since 2005, resulting in a 76% decrease.

According to a joint AGA and Global Fund report entitled "Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility: AngloGold Ashanti and The Global Fund Teaming up for Ghana," AGA's Obuasi programme "has not only reduced the burden of malaria in the community, increased school attendance, and won the gratitude of the community (recognition of the government), but has also reduced absenteeism at the mine, increased productivity, and reduced the cost of malaria medication to our employees and dependents."

The Obuasi Integrated Malaria Control Programme has relied on several methods of prevention and treatment that have contributed to its success.

Vector control, through the use of indoor residual spraying, has accounted for 139,000 structures being sprayed, which includes approximately, 36,000 houses. The residual insecticides from surface spraying remain active between five and six months, killing any mosquito that it comes into contact with.

Distribution of insecticide treated nets, along with the application of larvicide in mosquito breeding areas such as bodies of water, have also proved productive in the reduction of malaria cases.

Other methods used by the Obuasi programme include information, education, and communication within the community to bring awareness of how to recognise and prevent possible infections, as well as early effective diagnosis and treatment, once the disease has been contracted.

The "Obuasi Model" - as the programme's success has been dubbed - has become an International Gold Standard for Malaria Control Programmes, and received the "Business Excellence" award by the Global Business Coalition, along with two Pan African health awards.

The experience and expertise of malaria reduction demonstrated in Ghana's mines have allowed AGA to implement similar programmes in other countries such as Guinea, Mali, DR Congo, and Tanzania.

Between 300 and 500 million people worldwide are infected with malaria every year. One million of those infected will die, with 90% of deaths occurring in Africa - mostly children under five and pregnant women.

In Ghana, 4.9 million cases of malaria were reported in 2010, while 21,000 children and 2,200 pregnant mothers lost their lives to this terrible disease. Malaria also constituted 51% of all hospital cases during the same year in the country.

There are four means of malaria prevention currently available. They include killing the adult mosquitoes through indoor residual spraying and knockdowns; preventing mosquitoes from biting through the use of nets, screens, and repellants; preventing mosquitoes from breeding by environmental management and larvicide; and the use of anti-malarial drugs.

Malaria impacts society negatively, key among which are the lost man hours and reduction in productivity, loss of school time for students, stunted growth in some children, and growth prevention in tourism.

Instructively, AGA is a global gold producer that operates in 22 countries, and is partnering with national agencies such as the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, and National Malaria Control Programme in the implementation of the Integrated Malaria Prevention Programme.