Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Access Bank, in partnership with the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA), supported five Nigerian communities across Oyo, Ogun and Lagos states to rally neighborhood leaders and communities around malaria prevention in advance of this year’s rainy season. While the pandemic is causing concern, there is also a long-standing commitment and understanding that malaria is still a significant public health problem in Nigeria, accounting for approximately 95,000 deaths annually.
The project, implemented in partnership with Nigerian non-profit HACEY, combined targeted messaging about malaria prevention and treatment in pregnant women and children under five (who constitute the most vulnerable populations to malaria), while raising awareness of the need to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To avoid large gatherings, the program was reoriented to door-to-door communications and net distribution, and a social media campaign focusing on malaria prevention and access to proper treatment. The organizers, through this community activity and the campaign, urged program participants to use the LLINs, to visit hospitals for tests for fevers, to avoid self-medication when unwell, and to take the right steps to stay safe from malaria and COVID-19. They also advised participants to maintain a clean environment and proper hygiene, which is also beneficial in preventing COVID-19.
The program reached over 5,000 pregnant women and mothers with children under five and provided about 1,600 pregnant women with long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) in Ogooluwa, Eredo and Iberekodo in Lagos state, Aremo and Oke-Ado in Oyo state and Ibafo in Ogun state. Through this initiative, health centers in these communities also received donations of LLINs. Over 200,000 people were reached through the social media campaign.
Access Bank’s Head of Sustainability and CAMA Co-Chair, Mrs. Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, spoke about the importance of not neglecting the fight against malaria, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Malaria hurts families, businesses and the entire economy. At Access Bank, we remain committed to the fight against malaria, and we believe that the private sector is key in this fight. Over the years we have led and invested in various initiatives such as this one to end malaria in Africa, and it is important for us to ensure continuity of net distribution and other malaria interventions to overcome the challenge of COVID-19.”
CAMA’s Country Representative, Mrs. Ochuko Keyamo-Onyige, said “despite the government’s efforts, malaria remains a leading cause of maternal and child mortality, especially in rural and peri-urban communities in Nigeria. CAMA and our members are committed to galvanizing private sector efforts to end malaria through key initiatives like this one.” She noted that Access Bank has supported initiatives to end malaria in Africa for many years and has encouraged many other private organizations to join the fight. “The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbates the challenge that malaria presents as it limits access to healthcare in many communities. We must ensure that COVID-19 does not further interrupt the delivery of malaria services and we must protect the gains we have made in our fight against malaria.”
Mrs. Keyamo-Onyige reinforced that the community and online activities were aligned with the Nigerian National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP) strategy to end malaria-related deaths in the country, which bears about 25% of the global burden. In Nigeria, malaria is a leading cause of miscarriages during pregnancy and of maternal and child mortality.
Speaking at the community gathering, Hon. Wasiu Taiwo, Vice Chairman, of the Eredo Local Council Development Area in Lagos, credited Access Bank and CAMA with timely outreach and education of pregnant women on the use of mosquito nets. He stressed that private sector collaboration with the government is needed to turn the tide in reducing maternal deaths and malaria-related deaths in communities like Eredo.
A participant and beneficiary of the event commented: “I did not know a lot of things about malaria and how pregnant women can stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic until now. But this program has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I had stopped going to the hospital because of COVID-19 but at this program, I learnt that it is okay and important, as long as I take the necessary precautions such as using my face mask and washing my hands.”
CAMA is a GBCHealth-led initiative to drive partnerships for malaria control and elimination. The Alliance is a unique coalition of companies from various industries, all with business interests in Africa. CAMA channels the collective force and voice of the private sector to drive impact on malaria in Africa from workplaces to region-wide initiatives.
Access Bank is a leading full-service commercial bank operating through a network of more than 600 branches and service outlets, spanning three continents. As part of its continued growth strategy, Access Bank is focused on mainstreaming sustainable business practices into its operations. The Bank strives to deliver sustainable economic growth that is profitable, environmentally responsible, and socially relevant.