UN Global Compact chairman Sir Mark Moody-Stuart used his time on the main stage at the Third Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit on Thursday to propose how business can join the global fight to eradicate malaria.
In addition to his role with Global Compact, Moody-Stuart also serves as the chairman of the IVCC Board of Trustees. IVCC is a not-for-profit public-private partnership that was established as a charity in 2005. The group’s mission is to save lives, protect health and increase prosperity in areas where disease transmitted by insects is endemic.
Moody-Stuart shared how IVCC is partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UKAID, USAID and Swiss Development Corporation to engage with major agro-chemical companies to bring three new antimalarial insecticides into production. “Innovation funders and business partners have brought us this far,” he said, but the project still needs $50-100 million to come to fruition.
Malaria seen a remote problem that’s not connected to business, but Moody-Stuart argued it's not.
“Healthy employees, customers and communities are good for business," he said.
The problem, as Moody-Stuart explained, is that people fighting to eradicate malaria need to rely on the continuing generosity of governments and philanthropists such as the Gates Foundation. And as the problem continues, they’re asked to do even more.
“Or someone else has to do the job. To me, it has to be done by companies in the affected areas,” he said.
Which is where his proposal came in, with the question: “Would societal benefits be enough to get companies to give a few million dollars a year to bridge the gap?”
Companies that contribute to the effort would be helping bring a solution over the finish line.
Malaria is one of the world’s most preventable illnesses and causes of death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria kills over 600,000 people each year and sickens over 216 million more. Increased prevention and control measures have reduced malaria mortality rates by 42 percent globally since 2000 and by 49 percent in the WHO African Region.
But these gains are threatened because of increasing resistance to insecticides that are used in life-saving sprays and bed nets. Similar to antibiotic resistance, the long-term effectiveness of insecticides relies on more than one kind and the ability to rotate them. But with a lack of human welfare funding on a global basis, these new insecticides are not being made.
The economic case for eliminating malaria can be found in the research that tallies the annual costs of death and illness due to malaria to governments. The Centers for Disease Control estimates the direct costs from malaria from drugs, illness, and premature death to be at least US$12 billion per year. As the CDC outlines, the cost in lost economic growth is many times more than that: “Costs to governments include maintenance, supply and staffing of health facilities; purchase of drugs and supplies; public health interventions against malaria, such as insecticide spraying or distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets; lost days of work with resulting loss of income; and lost opportunities for joint economic ventures and tourism.”
Businesses bear many of the same costs with lost employee productivity and costs to care for ill employees.
Dr. Nick Hamon, CEO of IVCC, remarked: “For companies who want to grow in Africa, now’s the time to get your brand out there with a small group of motivated companies who want to be part of the solution.” Hamon estimates that 5-10 companies contributing $1 million a year for 10 years would be sufficient to bring these three already-tested insecticides to market and make malaria eradication closer to reality.
As well as being the right thing to do, for companies who operate in areas impacted by malaria, this can also be seen as an opportunity for companies looking to grow and be seen as a human welfare leader.
“They can be a part of the solution right up front, with something we know is going to be successful,” Hamon said.