Exploring the Links Between Sustainable Business Practices and the Fight Against Malaria

The fight against malaria is evolving. The uptake of insecticide-treated bed nets, the scaling of spraying programs, and a greater focus on ensuring access to adequate testing and treatment resources has brought us to a cross-roads. The fight against malaria has saved over 6.8 million lives and the disease is in retreat in many geographies. In order to sustain the gains that we have made in the fight against malaria, the global fight needs to adapt to match the new face of the disease and its associated obstacles. Today, innovators are working to develop new tools and technologies to combat the growing threat of drug and insecticide resistance while programs are developing strategies to identify and treat cases of malaria amongst the most vulnerable.

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Meanwhile, a confluence of other factors are continuing to complicate the fight against malaria: the World Bank reports that climate change may result in a 50% higher probability of malaria transmission in regions of South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and China by 2050.[1] Occurring in parallel, the increased urbanization and the proliferation of major agricultural operations across Africa are outpacing infrastructure, allowing excess runoff water to create the perfect environment for mosquitos to breed. Requiring employees to work outside at night-time, when malaria carrying mosquitos are more likely to bite, may result in increased transmission. Mining sites with standing pools of water can also lead to increased malaria outbreaks by providing a breeding environment.

Thus, we need to target malaria from all angles. Some companies have already taken the lead in advancing business practices to fight malaria. For example, South32, a mining and metals company headquartered in Perth, Australia is actively working to minimize malaria risk among its employees and operating communities in Mozambique. South32’s Mozal Aluminum Smelter team sprays areas with mosquito repellent and applies larvicides to standing water to eliminate malaria breeding areas. Additionally, they educate their employees on personal protection measures through readily available informational displays and seasonal awareness campaigns. Through these measures, and the provision of test and treat services for employees, the Mozal team saw a 58% reduction in onsite malaria cases over three years.[2] 

There is also an opportunity for local and global private sector actors to liaise directly with community farmers to provide capacity-building and education programs on sustainable agricultural practices for fighting malaria. For example, Nestle supports a “farmers school initiative” for farmers in the Ivory-Coast that meets every two weeks.[3] This type of effort has the potential to be hugely beneficial, as common community agricultural practices such as the use of irrigation during rice cultivation, the use of fish ponds for fish farming, and the storage of water in tanks for livestock all provide suitable breeding grounds for mosquitos. Further, farmers are at a high risk of developing malaria, which goes on to impact their productivity and ability to earn a living. One study in Nigeria amongst community farmers illustrates the opportunity to provide agricultural training aimed at malaria reduction: only 12% of respondents surveyed stated that mosquito bites transmit malaria, and observational research showed that agricultural practices that favor mosquito breeding were common.[4]

Ultimately, the links between business practices and malaria are significant and complex and will require collaborative action across disciplines. Agriculture companies, textile producers, oil and gas suppliers, industrial water operations, mining companies, and manufacturing centers of all sorts have a decisive part to play in the fight against malaria.

[1] RBM Partnership. “Climate Change and Malaria.” September 2015.

[2] International Council on Mining & Metals. “Mining with Principles.” Accessed 13 June 2019.

[3] Nestle. “Cocoa-Plan.” Accessed 14 May 2019.

[4] Oladepo O, Tona G, Oshiname F, and Titiloye M. “Malaria knowledge and agricultural practices that promote mosquito breeding in two rural farming communities in Oyo State, Nigeria.” April 2010.