Malaria remains the number one killer disease and a public health challenge in Nigeria, and now more than ever before, the campaign to
stem the scourge calls for increased collaboration by all stakeholders. VICTORIA UNONGO AND FATIMAH KATO in this report examines how responsible corporate bodies like 9mobile are supporting government’s anti-malaria initiatives.
Nigeria’s running battle with malaria is well documented. Despite concerted efforts by government and other stakeholders to ensure its eradication, the malaria disease caused by parasites from female anopheles mosquitoes has continued to claim thousands of human lives, old and young.
Available data shows that malaria is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 300,000 children per year and contributes to over 40,000 maternal deaths annually in Nigeria. It is also the number one cause of absenteeism, resulting in loss of productivity at work and in school. The World Health Organisation (WHO) World Malaria Report 2015 revealed that Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo account for more than 35% of the global total of estimated malaria deaths.
Collectively, concerned stakeholders – federal and state governments, international partners like the WHO, UNICEF, Centre for Diseases Control and corporate Nigeria – have continued to innovate interventions that ensure the life-threatening disease is curtailed and that Nigerians of all ages and class enjoy good health. Amongst these strategic interventions is continuous awareness and education of the populace about steps they need to take to prevent infection with the malaria scourge. These include maintaining clean surroundings, indoor residual spraying and sleeping under insecticide-treated nets (ITNs).
In furtherance of its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility anchored on three core pillars of Education, Health and Environment, Nigeria’s customer-friendly and innovative telecommunications network, 9mobile has continued to support malaria eradication efforts in Nigeria with the distribution of free insecticide-treated nets in communities across 13 states of the federation while it plans to extend the reach. The latest of such initiative took place in some communities recently when it gave out free insecticide-treated nets to people in rural communities under its Fight Malaria initiative.
Instructively, the insecticide treated nets, alongside indoor residual spraying (IRS), intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women (IPT) and diagnosis and treatment, are the four scientifically proven key interventions to prevent and treat malaria recommended by the WHO.
9mobile recently distributed over 50,000 insecticide nets to communities in 13 states of the federation including Ogun, Sokoto, Plateau, Bauchi, Enugu, Anambra, Bayelsa, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Zamfara, Ondo, Ekiti and the FCT. This, however, is just a tip of the iceberg as the telco is committed to doing more, according to the Ag. Director, Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, 9mobile, Oluseyi Osunsedo.
“Reducing the heavy burden caused by malaria on our healthcare system and the negative impact on individuals, families and overall national development is the main driver of our commitment to malaria eradication in Nigeria. 9mobile is passionate about alleviating this burden and helping to free up scarce resources needed to tackle other health problems, increase productivity, and ultimately support the growth of the national economy. We are also passionate about showing that we care for our host communities”, she stated.
Although many other corporate organisations also give out insecticide-treated nets, Osunsedo explained that 9mobile’s intervention was a well thought-through initiative and not just treading a well-worn path. According to her, “9mobile has always been passionate about the sustainable development of Nigeria, and this is driven on our three core CSR platforms: Education, Health and the Environment. In the area of health, we identify that malaria is the single biggest scourge in Africa and Nigeria in particular. So it is key to us, to help tackle this malaise, as we have been doing since inception.
“For us, it is not the bandwagon effect; it is a cause we have been committed to, and on the back of this, we have distributed over 50,000 nets to communities most in need, across Nigeria. We have also established Fight Malaria Clubs in the South-south region, through which we are controlling the spread of malaria. Our track record is evident, and we remain resolute about controlling the spread of malaria in Nigeria.”
She assured of 9mobile’s continuous commitment to support malaria eradication efforts, stating that “prevention is better than cure, and certainly a lot cheaper.”
It is heart-warming to note that 9mobile’s initiatives have been widely appreciated by the beneficiaries. Speaking during the distribution of free nets in his community recently, the Igwe-elect of Umunevo Community, Ogui Nike, Enugu State, Hon. Emma Ngwu, summed up his people’s appreciation thus: “9mobile is part of us and we are also part of 9mobile. For ages in this community, there has not been any company that came to give us gifts but 9mobile has decided to come and put a smile on our faces by this presentation, 9mobile we commend your efforts.”
Secretary, Market Women Association of the same community, Mrs. Rachel Nnam, said, “We appreciate the way 9mobile has been serving us in this community. For remembering our women and children in its fight against malaria, we say thank you.”
The Sarkin Baura and chair, Health Committee, Anka Emirate Council in Zamfara State, Alhaji Zubairu Mohammed, disclosed that the distribution of free nets by 9mobile was the first-of-its-kind by any telco in the Emirate. He said the intervention was timely. “It’s the first-of-its-kind and 9mobile did it at the most needed time of malaria prevalence. No network has done such and we are much delighted,” he enthused.
Representatives of two other Zamfara communities, Maradun and Maru, also expressed gratitude to 9mobile. The Emir of Maradun, Alhaji Garba Mohammed Tambari hailed the free nets as “a welcome development” while Sarkin Sudan of Maru, Alhaji Bala Ibrahim, said, “we sincerely appreciate and thank 9mobile for their support.”
The outpour of gratitude from the beneficiaries notwithstanding, 9mobile is not about to relent. With a history of similar positive interventions since it began operations over nine years ago, the telco is only living up to its billing as the caring network
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