By Yacine Djibo
President, Speak Up Africa*
With a production of over 100,000 tons of sugar per year, a turnover of 70 billion CFA francs, the Senegal Sugar Company is a leader in the sugar industry in West Africa. And the company is now also on its way to becoming a leader in public-private partnerships in the public health sector, tackling one of the region’s biggest challenges in Richard-Toll district: malaria.
“When I was approached by the National Malaria Control Program team to participate in their malaria elimination efforts, I was very skeptical. I went as far as saying that their objective was not realistic, not in Richard-Toll at least,” said Dr. Aboubacar Gassama, Chief Medical Officer at the Senegal Sugar Company. However, after a thorough consultation process in which all details of the malaria elimination project to be rolled-out were examined, Dr. Gassama and his team came to the conclusion that not only was the elimination objective within reach but that the Senegal Sugar Company could play a major role.
The results obtained after only a year of effective malaria control policy proved them right. The Senegal Sugar Company has four medical doctors and ten nurses and nursing aids for medical monitoring of its workers and their families. In collaboration with the health district management team, they established a series of malaria control interventions including distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to their employees, systematic use of rapid diagnostic tests to diagnose malaria and the prescription of artemisinin-based combination therapies when a malaria case is confirmed.
The Senegal Sugar Company is now fully committed to the malaria elimination project implemented in Richard-Toll by the National Malaria Control Program and MACEPA because this initiative has a direct impact on its productivity. Before establishing this internal policy, they used to record 20 cases of malaria per day. In the six months after the start of the investigation and case management program, they had recorded only 24 cases of malaria—only 4 cases per month. Regarding the financial burden of the disease, clear benefits have also surfaced. The purchase of antimalarials that used to cost US$23,000 over six months, now only cost US$300.
The project has also had a great impact on the company’s productivity. With this project, workers need less recovery time as the disease is treated as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed. They are therefore able to return to work more quickly. “As far as we are concerned, the relevance of our commitment to this project is fully proven,” said Dr. Gassama.
*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.