Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Public-private partnership to end malaria scourge

By: Chioma Umeha

That Malaria has been an endemic disease plaguing the entire sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, definitely will not make headline news now. However, its impact is significant enough to be currently viewed as a global health issue. Concerned stakeholders continue to intensify efforts through more innovative ways to lower malaria prevalence across Nigeria. In view of this, Ogun State Government and Reckitt Benckiser’s Mortein insecticide brand have teamed up to combat the scourge in Ogun state. CHIOMA UMEHA (HEALTH EDITOR) writes.

Officials of the Ogun State and Reckitt Benckiser
As concerned stakeholders intensify efforts to lower malaria prevalence across countries especially in Africa, more innovative ways to strengthen the global campaign against malaria are also unfolding. One of such innovations is the strategic alliance between the Ogun State Government and Reckitt Benckiser’s Mortein insecticide brand in which both parties are partnering to bring down the current malaria prevalence in the country and ultimately, the entire African continent. The partnership between the state government and the company was predicated on the conviction that malaria was preventable, but there was the need for stakeholders to take more proactive steps in order to halt the current trend of avoidable deaths resulting from the disease especially among pregnant mothers and children below five years of age.

In light of the above, both the state and Reckitt Benckiser for the first time jointly commemorated this year’s World Malaria Day in Abeokuta to demonstrate leadership in this advocacy campaign to end malaria scourge thereby offering succour to hundreds of residents of the state, particularly, new and expectant mothers as well as children.

Speaking on the partnership, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Olaokun Soyinka, said due to the strategic placement of Africa as the new hub for the world’s economy, it was imperative to accord malaria eradication priority and every support needed to overcome the alarming prevalence rate.

To this end, he revealed that his ministry had mapped out six core intervention areas to strengthen the fight against malaria scourge. These interventions, according to him, are Malaria Prevention; Diagnosis and Case Management; Malaria in pregnancy and under-five children; Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilization (ACSM); Health System Strengthening (HSS) and Information Management (IM).

Soyinka said the focus of the ministry was to scale-up intervention initiatives that include appropriate measures to promote positive behaviour change, strengthen the health system to deliver package of interventions and adequately mobilize for action against malaria through a broad based partnership. The commissioner, who described the partnership with Reckitt Benckiser as timely, commended the company for its Mortein anti-malaria initiative even as he called on other well-meaning corporate organizations and institutions in the country to emulate the company in a bid to make the country malaria-free.

Soyinka added that the initiative was a demonstration of responsible corporate citizenship which he said underpinned the company’s love and commitment not only to the people of the state, but to the country as a whole. He said, ‘‘complementary efforts of this nature are not only needed but deeply appreciated by the Government of Ogun State. This will certainly go a long way in ensuring that our children and mothers are free from the scourge of malaria.’’

The General Manager for Central (West & East) Africa, Reckitt Benckiser, Mr. Ashok Bashin,  said the need to fill what he called the ‘‘deadly gaps’’ in the various malaria eradication programmes informed the intervention initiative being provided by the company. “There are lots of activities and momentum to combat malaria in the country, but deadly gaps still exist. More needs to be done to prevent children from being infected and ensure access to quality malaria treatment”, he declared.

Bashin said further that, ‘‘empowering families and communities through participation – while improving their knowledge about how to prevent, recognize and treat malaria – is an important part of Reckitt Benckiser’s malaria prevention work.

‘’Community workers should try to sensitize the local population about preventing malaria through the use of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), cleaning their environment on regular basis, avoidance of stagnant water in their surroundings and use of insecticides which is safe on both the mother and child.’’ The theme for this year’s World Malaria Day celebration  is ‘‘Invest in the future: Defeat Malaria’’, and it is aimed at creating awareness at all levels to help people especially at the grassroots to be more responsive to the global effort to combat and overcome the malaria scourge in the country. Malaria is responsible for about 66 per cent of all clinic visits in Nigeria. Health workers are sometimes forced to work overtime, and doctors and nurses can be on duty for over 12 hours a day. Still, women and children have to wait for hours before receiving medical consultation.

The high point of Mortein-supported World Malaria Day celebration was the affirmation to a pledge by representatives of pregnant women and new mothers to join the crusade on malaria prevention and eradication. The pledge-making session was led by Mortein Anti-Malaria Campaign Spokesperson, Omawumi Megbele. The pledge tagged ‘Mortein Mothers Pledge Against Malaria’ reads: ‘I am a Nigerian mother and I promise to wait no longer, to take up the malaria fight. Protecting my child from mosquito bites, I stand firm to protect my own. No stagnant water or dirt in my home. Let’s embrace our countries’ plight; standing as one. One enemy, one fight. ’’

Reckitt Benckiser, is also partnering with the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives to achieve malaria-free country. The partnership emphasises the synergy in the ability of nurses and midwives to reach mothers and children through the primary health care centres nationwide.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on June 13, 2013.

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