Malaria and Industry

Impact of businesses on malaria
Impact of Businesses on malaria

Remote working sites in Papua New Guinea (Source - Montrose)Business activities can have both positive and negative impacts on malaria.

Some company activities can lead to increased malaria transmission by for example:

  • Bringing people into unpopulated areas with high malaria transmission potential.
  • Moving non-immune employees into malaria endemic areas.
  • Requiring employees to work outside during peak transmission times (e.g. night-time shift work).
  • Increasing the size/number of mosquito breeding sites as a result of construction work, leading to increased transmission (e.g. by the creation of trenches alongside new roads which may collect rain water).
  • Causing long-term changes in land-use leading to a long-term increase in transmission potential (e.g. through irrigation projects).

Other company activities can result in reduced malaria transmission by for example:

  • Reducing the size/number of mosquito breeding sites through construction work (e.g. improving drainage through the strategic use of culverts, drains and soakaways).
  • Making high quality malaria treatment facilities available to employees and the wider community. This can have a particularly profound impact where companies are working in remote populated areas beyond the reach of national health services.

Private companies, perhaps more in the Asia-Pacific than in any other region, have the potential to effect major transformational impact on malaria control. The extensive presence of large scale private companies working in malarious areas, often in remote locations, provides an opportunity to bring high quality malaria control to areas that Government may be unable to reach.

Impact of malaria on Business
Impact of malaria on Business

As the World Economic forum states¹ : ‘Malaria is bad for business’! It impacts on company profits through employee absenteeism, reduced productivity and escalating benefit costs. It can also have negative reputational impacts.

In 2006 the World Economic Forum conducted a review of business attitudes and approaches to malaria, detailing businesses’ estimates of the impact of malaria on their operations, including financial impact. This document can be accessed here and its key messages are summarized below.

Attempts have been made to estimate the financial returns on investing in malaria control. Marathon Oil estimates 4:1 returns on its investments in malaria control² , though this is the in the African setting. Firm estimates of the financial impact of malaria on companies in the Asia-Pacific are not available. However it is known that malaria can impact on business in a number of ways:

Directly: through impact on workforces, increased spend on healthcare and corporate reputational effects. Specifically through:

  • Absenteeism of employees who fall ill with malaria or take time off to care for family members who fall ill. Around 1 – 5 days can be expected to be lost for each malaria case.
  • High healthcare costs for companies that provide health services to their employees.
  • Costs of pay-out packages in the case of a death, as well as related recruitment and retraining costs for replacements.
  • Poor company morale when cases and/or deaths are high.
  • Corporate reputational risks where companies are seen to either make malaria worse or to engage insufficiently in what is seen to be a priority local problem.

Indirectly: through impacting on the economic climate in which the business is operating, for example:

  • By damaging children’s educational prospects.
  • Weakening labour productivity.
  • Influencing decisions on savings and investments.
  • Impacting on household solvency and ability to be economically active.
  • Altering a countries demographic structure.


on the disease, its transmission cycle and malaria illness