Friday, 13 September 2013

Malaria and how it affects productivity

By Farzana Rasheed

One of my staff reported sick this morning, complaining of suffering from shivering and cold. Nickson was coming down with it since yesterday. It is definitely malaria. One of my other staff, Tauseef, also has been complaining of malaria-like symptoms.

I could possibly lose half of my technical team to malaria for 2-3 working days or more. It will seriously impact my day to day business.

I wonder to what degree the incidence of malaria affects other businesses and organisations here in Liberia, what medical plans they have, and how do they absorb lost productivity?

Targeting, treating and protection from malaria is a huge concern for international development agencies. In fact, one of the diseases Global Fund fights is malaria (the other two are tuberculosis and AIDS). 

Here are some numbers on malaria:
  • Over half a million (655, 000) people die from malaria each year, mostly children younger than five years old. 
  • There are an estimated 216 million cases of malaria each year. 
  • Although the vast majority of malaria cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, the disease is a public-health problem in more than 109 countries in the world, 45 of which are in Africa. 
  • Approximately 3.3 billion people live in areas where malaria is a constant threat. 
  • 90% of all malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. 
  • Malaria costs an estimated $12 billion in lost productivity in Africa. 
  • When insecticide-treated nets are used properly by three-quarters of the people in a community, malaria transmission is cut by 50%, child deaths are cut by 20%, and the mosquito population drops by as much as 90%. 
  • It is estimated that less than 5% of children in sub-Saharan Africa currently sleep under any type of insecticide-treated net.
I got these statistics from Nets for Life.

So, as an employer, what can I do help my employees? Well, I only have a half-baked policy and system in place but need to get my act together. One of my colleagues here in the business sector in Liberia shared with me their policy: all their staff can access good, reliable healthcare at the SOS Clinic 
in Congo Town. The staff can take sick days if they have a doctor's OK from this particular clinic.

I need to set up a similar arrangement so my staff can access a doctor when sick and, have some or all their bills paid by the company.

I was also thinking of making a treated net and a supply of mosquito coils part of the salary package. I am sure it would reduce the amount of times my staff gets malaria.

Speaking of mosquito coils, I remember an electrician's quip when he was installing some light fixtures at my house once: "The mosquitos in our community can come to rest on the coils." I love the Liberian sense of humour!

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