Malaria elimination in Richard Toll: A public-private partnership story

media_gallery_textBy Yacine Djibo,
President, Speak Up Africa*

In Senegal, in the Richard-Toll district in the northern region of Senegal, public-private partnership is a reality. “Senegal Sugar Company is the most important private sector company in Richard Toll and if we want to have a real and lasting impact on people, it is essential for them to be involved” said Dr. Boniface Mutombo, Director of PATH Senegal.

A malaria awareness session at Senegal Sugar Company. Photo: Speak Up Africa

A malaria awareness session at Senegal Sugar Company. Photo: Speak Up Africa

Private sector companies often operate and run their own health programs without taking into account the strategies implemented by the national malaria control programs. But in Senegal, the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) and its partners have reversed this trend. The malaria elimination project implemented by the NMCP and MACEPA fully integrates the private sector to put an end to the local transmission of the disease in Richard Toll. They both sought to maximize this immeasurable resource that the Senegal Sugar Company represents. The malaria elimination project tells us that the best motivation for solid public-private partnership is when the proposed partnership helps a company’s bottom line and fits into its business model. By showing that malaria caused financial loss in terms of absenteeism, productivity, and medical expenses, the health district was able to capture the private sector’s attention.

The Senegal Sugar Company is the second largest employer in the country, after the government of Senegal, with 7,000 employees. When you consider that each employee is attached to a family of about 10 people that presumably benefit from medical services provided by the CSS, you quickly realize that the company looks after the health of the majority of the district’s population.

The private sector is all about development, economic growth, and long-term viability of their operations and markets. It is well-positioned to partner with the public sector in strategic planning, education, and health promotion. It is also capable of serving significant segments of target populations with low-cost, high quality health products and services, thereby reducing the burden of the public sector so that they can better focus limited resources on the most needy and vulnerable.

The public-private partnership is an integral part of the strategy advocated by the health district management team. “We made a conscious effort to involve all stakeholders likely to have an impact on the health of our people,” said Gnagna Dieng Sow, MACEPA Focal Point in Richard Toll. The district pharmacies have all been approached and integrated in the project planning and monitoring as they often are the first point-of-contact for patients with health inquiries.

The malaria elimination project in Richard Toll is still in its infancy, but to date one fact remains undeniable: the involvement of partners from all sectors ranging from administrative authorities to private companies, including pharmacies, has enabled Senegal to take a big step in the right direction in terms of public-private partnership. The example of the Richard Toll district highlights the importance for health authorities to maximize local resources in order to channel all available resources to achieve the common goal of malaria elimination.

 

*Speak Up Africa is a Dakar-based health communications and advocacy organization whose goal is to engage all sectors of African society in the fight to eliminate malaria.