MTN Group Executive for Corporate Affairs, Ms Nozipho January-Bardill, says the adverse impact of malaria in Africa is threatening to derail the continent’s efforts to rid itself of the scourges of underdevelopment and poverty. She said the company is commited to fighting these ills.
January-Bardill was addressing delegates at the biennial AU African Health Ministers conference held in Geneva, Switzerland.
The conference, held under the auspices of the United Nations, was attended by health ministers and senior health officials from across the continent. MTN is participating at the conference as part of its Malaria Legacy Initiative for 2010, and as the only African global sponsor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Through this initiative, MTN hopes to make every effort to support the aim of ensuring 100% coverage and use of anti-malaria mosquito bed nets in affected African countries by 2010.
“We at MTN are indeed excited about joining the campaign. Through our participation, we hope to leave a 2010 legacy which relates to addressing the issue of malaria on the continent. MTN has a large footprint and amazing marketing expertise across its markets in Africa, which we will use to communicate the message of malaria in the run-up to 2010,” January-Bardill said.
She told delegates that the economic costs of malaria in affected countries is not only exorbitant, but unsustainable, “especially in a continent where the required health expenditure to combat the disease is approximately 15% of national budgets”.
“Of the annual 81 000 deaths resulting from malaria, 91 percent are in Africa and 85 percent are children under the age of five,” said January-Bardill.
The rate of malaria infection has somewhat dissipated over the years, but has since spiked dramatically particularly in Southern Africa owing to, among others, high rainfall and increased migration.
She added that the sheer scale of challenges inherent in some of MTN’s operating markets often prescribes that multinationals like MTN partner with governments, NGOs and civil society to alleviate the impact of this scourge.
To that end, MTN Group signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in March this year with the Malaria Community, a network of advocacy groups. The MoU gives expression to the commitment the telecoms operator made earlier in the year to combat malaria. Malaria Group consists of Malaria No More, the John Hopkins University VOICES Project and PATH MACEPA Project.
In terms of the MoU, Malaria Group will utilize MTN’s vast infrastructure across Africa to distribute much-needed mosquito bed nets to affected communities by 2010. MTN will also use its facilities and marketing activities, especially in its 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ outreach, to support awareness education in these countries.
Says Jason Peat, head of IFRC global malaria programme in Geneva: “Communities must own the response if malaria prevention is to be successful. Families at risk of being infected with the disease must know how to properly use nets and fully understand the risks they are taking if simple preventive steps are neglected”.