More than 500 000 people die from malaria each year and more than 200 million people contract the condition worldwide. It is therefore apt that as international business travel to regions affected by malaria increases, North-east companies are being warned to implement prevention strategies to reduce potential fatalities.
Business travel to sub-Saharan Africa is likely to increase as Western countries vie to gain foothold in the region. In August 2014, US companies committed to invest US$14 billion in Africa; and sub-Saharan Africa's economy is expected to grow at nearly 6% a year on average over the next decade, the fastest of any region in the world. With this growth, there is potentially an increased risk to the health of travellers and international assignees from threats such as malaria.
International SOS, which has a base in Aberdeen, provides education and malaria prevention services to reduce risks to organisations and their travelling employees. According to a recent survey ‘Return on Prevention’, one global firm found their employee malaria prevention programme reduced fatalities by 70%. The survey by research and consultancy firm Prevent has highlighted the value of such cost effective prevention programmes which save lives.
Over 40 Fortune 500 international companies were recently surveyed about the health challenges they face as their global presence expands. The results were published in Health Trends: 10 Key Recommended Actions to Protect your Global Workforce by the International Corporate Health Leadership Council (ICHLC).
Whilst most respondents indicated they provide their travellers with a briefing on health risks and preventive measures as well as a medical consultation before they depart, only one in ten provide malaria training or track those who have received training.
Dr Irene Lai, a Medical Director with International SOS, said: “Until malaria elimination is achieved, efforts to prevent and control the disease remain a responsibility for any organisation that travels to or operates in malarial areas.
“Although there have been great improvements in the global malaria picture over the last few years, the disease continues to be responsible for almost 200 million illnesses and more than 500 000 deaths each year.
“We continue to see gaps in some organisations’ approach to managing their malaria risk. Companies need to right-size their solution, which may range from education and support of a few travelling employees, through to designing and implementing a community wide prevention and control programme.”
Dr Charl van Loggerenberg, Regional Medical Director, International SOS Southern Africa, said: “Whilst the threat is very real, malaria is both preventable and curable. Through a targeted and integrated malaria control programme, you can protect your employees, the community and your reputation against the risk of malaria.”
In addition to supporting organisations that have travellers to, or operate in, malaria-risk regions, International SOS conducts educational outreach programmes in the communities they serve.
In sub-Saharan Africa, International SOS has led initiatives to educate and equip residents, including donations of mosquito nets and performing plays about malaria prevention at orphanages. The company also produces bracelets symbolising malaria awareness, with all proceeds benefiting malaria prevention programmes.
Adapted from press release by Joseph Green