World Malaria Day Interview: Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan

Ian MatthewsNews

Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan is Unit Head, Sustainability Corporate Communications at Access Bank. She is also Co-Chair of the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA).

Why is investing in malaria a priority for Access Bank?

Globally, malaria poses a significant public health problem and is a leading cause of disease and mortality in many countries.

In 2015, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for about 90% of the malaria cases and 92% of the malaria deaths worldwide, with over 36% of the cases worldwide occurring in Nigeria and the Republic of Congo. These statistics stirred considerable effort and significant investment towards the development of malaria intervention programs which aimed at reducing the prevalence and impact of the disease.

However, a gap remained between the malaria interventions and corresponding outcomes which created the need for re-strategizing to tackle this issue. Additionally, the transition from malaria control to elimination offered an opportunity for interested stakeholders to redefine its objectives, measure progress, adopt innovative approaches and form new partnerships to effectively meet expected malaria outcomes. 

Consequently, malaria is a priority to Access Bank; health and well-being are part of our core area for CSR investments, under which malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and maternal health are prioritized. Access Bank’s focus on malaria is reinforced by Goal 3 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, as well as considerations of the ailments prevalent in our operating environment.

How does Access Bank support, interact and partner with other stakeholders to accelerate innovation in malaria elimination?

Access Bank has taken several steps to accelerate and complement efforts designed to improve health outcomes in our society through collaboration and advocacy. Over the years, the Bank has prioritised multi-sectoral collaboration as a key strategy to improving the outcomes and scale up the impact of its health intervention programmes.

In particular, the Malaria-to-Zero (MTZ) initiative led by Access Bank and Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) convened over 15 corporate bodies and partners to sign a landmark Joint Commitment to pool resources and capabilities against malaria. This initiative has, through supply- and demand-side interventions, reached over 500,000 women and children in selected underserved communities.

Additionally, Access Bank has provided both financial and technical support, as well as leadership, in other PHN-organised health intervention programmes. This includes the Nigeria Health Innovation Marketplace (NHIM), chaired by Access Bank’s MD/CEO, Mr. Herbert Wigwe. Beyond funding, Access Bank provides strategic thought leadership as well as branding and networking opportunities through our platforms.

For over 10 years, Access Bank has remained committed to the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA) to ensure that the organization gains due traction and recognition, both in Nigeria and Africa. Through our partnership with CAMA and other NGO partners, Access Bank leverages internationally recognized days such as World Mosquito Day and World Malaria Day to deliver targeted awareness and outreach programs in various communities.

How does the fight against malaria relate to the fight against COVID-19? How can we step up the fight against malaria while dealing with a new pandemic?

According to WHO, malaria-endemic countries have all reported cases of COVID-19. In Africa, which carries more than 90% of the global malaria burden, over 50 countries have reported cases of the disease. As widespread and life-threatening as this pandemic is, focus must not be taken away from the prevention of malaria disease. Deaths due to malaria must continue to be prevented. This is also necessary as there has been a surge of interest in certain drugs for COVID-19, including chloroquine, which is otherwise used as treatment against malaria. Despite limited information on its effectiveness against COVID-19, several governments have begun placing huge orders for chloroquine in spite of its uncertainty. This could lead to shortages and increase in prices for those who need it for malaria treatment. Thus, existing focus on malaria should not be suspended as a result of COVID-19 response.

What other aspect(s) of the fight against malaria do you want to highlight on this World Malaria Day?

Now, more than ever, there is a need to step up our efforts concerning in-country research and capacity-building.

We must emphasize collaboration between CAMA, vendors, communities and other stakeholders for implementation and technical support.

We must also prioritise advocacy and mobilization, organising outreach and other forms of communications leveraging virtual platforms and social media.

And we must encourage research for the establishment of a correlation between COVID-19 and malaria and the need for the public to take precautionary measures to prevent contacting either at this time. Mostly due to limited resources and the fragile state of the country’s healthcare system, it is our responsibility as an alliance to drive these engagements.

Access Bank is a full-service commercial bank operating through branches and service outlets located in major centres primarily across Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the United Kingdom. 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. For more, visit here.

Ian MatthewsWorld Malaria Day Interview: Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan