World Malaria Day 2017

Much to celebrate

Each year on 25 April the global community comes together to commemorate World Malaria Day; celebrating progress made and highlighting areas for continued investment. The 2017 World Malaria Day Report released by the World Health Organization shows that scaled up prevention efforts (insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying of insecticides and prevention therapies for pregnant women and children) have worked in reducing the number of malaria cases and deaths globally. In Africa, the region most affected by malaria, cases fell by 21% and deaths by 31%.

This is good news for sustainable global development. Advances in malaria prevention have a positive impact on poverty reduction, improved food security, improved gender equality (as women and girls are freed up from looking after sick relatives and can participate more fully in the work force or remain in school) and economic development generally. Businesses also benefit through healthier and more productive workforces, reduced costs of doing business, enhanced reputation and increased competitiveness (

But it’s not over yet

Despite the progress discussed above malaria is still claiming the lives of many people in Africa (394 000 deaths in 2015, mostly young children) and causing havoc to development. The World Health Organisations says this is because many people in endemic low-income countries have no access to the tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria. Clearly there is still much work to be done to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring that malaria is eliminated as a public health threat by 2030.

This World Malaria Day we look at two companies from the SWHAP network who are doing their bit to prevent malaria and provide wider access to diagnosis. For the SWHAP partners, addressing malaria within the context of HIV and wellness programmes is also important as the disease has a negative impact on HIV, increasing viral load.

Sandvik Zambia: Equipping Peer Educators to conduct onsite Rapid Diagnostic Testing for malaria


Sandvik Zambia started its HIV programme in 2005 and has since implemented a comprehensive programme offering treatment, care and support for employees and their families. In recent years, the company developed a wellness strategy and policy addressing other health concerns faced by employees and the local community such as malaria.

Malaria is a major public health and development concern in Zambia affecting more than four million Zambians annually and accounting for 36% of hospitalisations and outpatient visits (

The challenge

Between August 2015 and July 2016, 17 employees at Sandvik were admitted to hospital because of malaria. As a consequence of the disease the company lost 384 work hours (equivalent to 48 days) as well as hospital claims in excess of US$4 000.


In response to the challenges posed by malaria on its workforce, Sandvik trained 10 Peer Educators on how to conduct and interpret malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs). The training was held in partnership with the Kitwe Central Hospital. The RDT uses the finger prick method with antigens showing the presence of malaria parasites in the blood. The tests are included as part of the regular biometric screening (glucose, temperature and blood pressure) that takes place at the workplace.

Objectives of the programme

  • To provide early and accurate diagnosis of malaria. This is important as it reduces the disease, prevents deaths and contributes to reduced malaria transmission within communities
  • To improve the health of the workforce


As a result of the training Peer Educators were able to conduct early tests for malaria at the workplace and refer people for early treatment. This has resulted in:

  • Reduction in hospital admissions. Between August and October 2016 Sandvik were able to report zero admissions due to malaria.
  • Reduction in lost work hours
  • Increased awareness on wellness.
  • Capacity building for Peer Educators
  • A happier workforce

Key success factors

  • The initiative is part of Sandvik’ s comprehensive workplace HIV and wellness programme, which includes other malaria prevention measures. The company distributes treated bed nets, runs regular awareness raising programmes, environmental clean-up campaigns (reduces concentration of larvae and mosquitoes), distributes insect repellent to employees on night shift and supports community testing projects.
  • Partnerships with the Ministry of Health through the Kitwe Central Hospital and the local District Health Office helped to provide the know-how, technical support, quality control and an outlet for disposal of medical waste.

Insecticide-treated mosquito net distribution programme

Ericsson DRC – Arming families with cost-effective tools for malaria diagnosis


Malaria is the principle cause of morbidity and mortality in the DRC. It is estimated that the country accounts for 11% of all Plasmodium falciparum (the most dangerous form of malaria) cases in sub-Saharan Africa ( The Government with support from international and local partners has made considerable progress in addressing malaria in the country but where 97% of the population lives in zones with stable transmission lasting 8-12 months of the year, eliminating malaria is quite a challenge. Additionally, the size of the country, infrastructural challenges, a struggling healthcare system with frequent drug stock-outs mean that access to health care in general and malaria prevention and treatment in particular is a challenge for most citizens.

The challenge

Malaria is a frequently recurring disease and cumulatively results in much lost work over time. Additionally, the disease most impacts those under the age of five resulting in employees taking time off work to look after dependants. During the process of establishing their workplace programme baseline Ericsson found that the they had a high incidence of malaria (12%).


The company wanted a comprehensive solution. So, in addition to organising sensitisation for employees on environmental sanitation, waste management, promotion of treated bed nets, and regular malaria screening they also trained the spouses of employees on how to conduct and interpret malaria RDTs at family level.

Training spouses in the use of malaria RDTs

Objectives of the programme

  • Improve the knowledge of Ericsson employees and their dependents on the means of diagnosing malaria
  • Raise awareness among Ericsson employees and their dependents on how malaria is transmitted and how it can be prevented
  • Provide access to better prevention and treatment for malaria for employees and their families
  • Encourage employees and their families to adopt better health seeking behaviors in the event of malaria.


  • Seven spouses were trained meaning seven families were facilitated to provide early diagnose for malaria.
  • The training also closed the gap in knowledge between spouses regarding the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and the importance of sanitation at household and community level in preventing malaria.

Lessons learnt

  • Malaria RDTs are an effective tool to diagnose malaria in resource-limited settings
  • Sanitation is an important factor in preventing mosquitos from breeding
  • The use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets is an effective tool for malaria prevention especially among young children
  • More awareness sessions are needed on malaria transmission, the life cycle of the mosquito and on the longevity of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Key Success Factors

  • Strong partnerships with CIELS (the local business coalition) and PSI facilitated the exchange of technical support, supply of RDTs, and insecticide-treated mosquito nets at a subsided rate.
  • Management commitment and participation in the intervention motivated the employees to engage in malaria prevention efforts.
  • The general success of the programme at Ericsson DRC is due to the close collaboration between employees, union and management.

Rapid malaria testing for employees and their families at the Ericsson DRC wellness day


Related article

Atlas Copco Tanzania Commemorates World Malaria Day

World Health Day – Depression

Depression – World Health Day 2017

World Health Day observed on 7 April each year celebrates the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948.  Each year a theme is chosen to raise awareness on a specific public health concern. The theme for 2017 is “Depression: Let’s Talk.”

What is depression?

Depression affects more than 300 million people of all ages worldwide and it is the leading cause of disability. It is “an illness characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks” (WHO). Depression is more common in people living with chronic conditions such as HIV; rates can be as high as 60%. It can result in non-adherence to treatment regimens and sometimes increases high-risk behaviours that transmit HIV infection to other people (

What are the symptoms of depression?

The symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between people but in general include:

  • Loss of energy
  • Change in appetite
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Anxiety
  • Reduced concentration
  • Indecisiveness
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide


People experiencing such symptoms on a daily basis for more than two weeks are advised to seek medical help.

Is depression curable?

Depression is curable with psychotherapy or antidepressant medication or a combination of these. In most African countries taboos against mental health disorders mean that many people are not diagnosed and do not get the help that they need. The theme for 2017 “Let’s Talk” reflects the stigma surrounding depression and mental health, and the need to bring it out in the open.

Why should the private sector be interested in addressing depression in the workplace?

Depression is not good for business. Recent research analysing the impact of depression on productivity in South Africa found that the illness costs the country more than US$17 billion a year in lost productivity with presenteeism (attending work while unwell) accounting for US$14 billion of this figure ( The results of the research make a persuasive argument for workplace wellness programmes to address mental health.

What can be done?

Within the SWHAP network mental health is addressed as one of the dimensions of wellness, with many workplaces raising awareness on the factors that impact psychological, emotional and mental wellbeing, and offering telephonic counselling services for employees.  These measures help to address the stigma around mental illness and create safe spaces where employees can seek confidential help. Supporting employee physical and mental wellbeing creates positive working environments where employees are more engaged, committed and productive.

 An example from Scania – The Happiness Project

In line with its regional wellness strategy Scania, in partnership with their service provider Reality Wellness Group, launched the Happiness Project in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia last year. The project was a nine-week campaign with various weekly challenges (for example, promoting gratitude, avoiding negative thoughts and influences, spending more quality time with friends and family) designed to help boost employee engagement and promote mental wellbeing at the workplace.

Prior to the campaign launch a management workshop was organised to ensure top level buy-in, after which Scania Happiness Ambassadors were trained to run the programme on the ground. Through a comprehensive communication campaign involving posters, banners and promotional items Scania made sure that all its employees were aware of the programme and the ways in which they could participate. Some of the challenges also involved the family of employees, helping to cultivate work-life balance.

At the end of the nine weeks a report was drafted for Scania highlighting the initiatives the employees engaged with most and identifying gaps in programming that needed to be addressed. The project was successful in engaging employees in wellness and promoting team work as reflected in a testimonial from the team in Botswana.

This is the ninth and final week for our project. On behalf of Scania Francistown branch, and my manager, we would like to thank you for this project – we are so grateful indeed. At first it was like a minor … thing but let me share with you all, in our second week I saw an improvement, a devoted team and everyone started enjoying being part of the project … We really enjoyed doing this project, it was fun, challenging but the most important thing – it brought us together as a team.

During the course of the campaign the different Scania sites were free to interpret the challenges as they saw fit. For the week three Gratitude Challenge, Richards Bay South Africa site manager Caralize Viljoen gave her team t-shirts on which they had to write three things that they were grateful for each day over the course of a week.








As part of their week four challenge “Spending time with Family” the Cape Town South Africa branch organised employees into interdepartmental teams which had to make communal sandwiches and share lunch.  This allowed employees to interact with colleagues from different departments: their work “family”.


The video below on depression.


Resources from the World Health Organization to help stimulate discussion on depression in your workplaces, communities and homes.

Read more

Is your employee suffering? Telltale signs of depression in the workplace

Sandvik Weight Loss Challenge

After two consecutive wellness reports indicated a high number of employees with a Body Mass Index (BMI) above the normal range Sandvik South Africa decided that something needed to be done to help their employees lose weight and get into shape. Excess weight, especially obesity, diminishes almost every aspect of health, from reproductive and respiratory function to memory and mood. Obesity increases the risk of several diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

In 2016 Sandvik conceptualised a weight loss challenge for employees. They set out the goals they were hoping to achieve with the programme and mapped out the partners that would help them succeed. The objectives of the programmes were to support interested employees establish healthier lifestyles including regular exercise and healthy diets; allowing them to achieve and maintain their optimum weights. The weight loss was also expected to have a positive impact on blood pressure, cholesterol, energy levels and self-esteem. Twenty-five employees participated in the first challenge with six completing the full 12 weeks. Those six employees lost a combined total of 56 kilograms with the winner losing 22 kilograms and 15.5cm around the waist.

On 6 March this year Sandvik launched the second round of the challenge with almost double the number of participants. The programme commenced with a weigh-in and blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol measurements. Employees were then given exercise programmes and menu plans. WhatsApp support groups were set up on each site to encourage employees and keep them informed of workplace based exercise programmes. This time round the competition is group driven, with groups participating against each other. Sandvik believes this will help keep employees motivated to finish the programme which will end with a final weigh-in on 2 June.

Empowering employees to make informed decisions about health

During wellness days employees can participate in onsite biometric screening and testing for HIV. They also receive information on; the benefits of early diagnosis, the importance of knowing their health status and the management of chronic conditions. The information is designed to make sure they understand their results and any actions that need to be taken. Since the last reporting period wellness days have been held at Quant, Hydroscand, Phillip Morris International (all in South Africa) and Atlas Copco DRC: empowering over 130 employees at these companies to make informed decisions about their health.

At Quant, there was an 83% uptake for all testing with 87% of the employees that completed the health risk assessments also checking their HIV status. At Hydroscand 83% of the company attended awareness sessions with 29 participating in health risk assessments and 28 in the HIV testing.

Medical male circumcision advocacy during the Phillip Morris International wellness day

Intra-company Exchanges

SWHAP uses intra-company exchanges as a strategy for experience sharing between similar organisations and for benchmarking and creating best practices. Often these companies have common guidelines on the implementation of wellness programme as well as common reporting structures. In January, intra-company exchanges were organised for Atlas Copco Kenya and Tanzania, and for Sandvik Zambia and Tanzania. For the Atlas Copco companies, important lessons were shared on community outreach initiatives conducted by the Tanzania branch. Sandvik Zambia discussed its successful implementation of the spousal peer education programme.

Improving Compliance in HIV Workplace Programming

On 21 February, SWHAP partners in Kenya participated in a national forum for human resource managers, programme coordinators and union representatives aimed at improving compliance in HIV workplace programming.  The meeting provided a platform to share recent developments in the legal and ethical requirements regarding HIV in the workplace and to discuss innovative ways of scaling up the private sector response.

Discussions looked at the statutes protecting the rights of people living with HIV and the legal and ethical issues around testing, privacy, confidentiality, stigma and discrimination. The HIV and AIDS Tribunal – a body set up to enforce HIV-related human rights – shared a compendium of cases highlighting HIV related stigma and discrimination at the workplace. The Tribunal encouraged participants to be conversant with the relevant legislation as the consequences of non-compliance could be hefty fines.

Participants were also asked to report the good work being conducted at the workplaces with the National AIDS Control Council noting that only 4% of private sector contributions towards HIV financing in Kenya were documented.

SWHAP facilitated this enlightening forum in line with its mandate of promoting best practice in HIV and wellness programmes. SWHAP follows a rights based approach where workplace programmes and policies ensure the confidentiality of employee HIV status and protect against discrimination. The meeting was organised in partnership with the National AIDS Control Council (NACC), Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), Central Organisation of Trade Union (COTU), International Labour Organisation (ILO), LVCT Health and the HIV and AIDS Tribunal of Kenya.

Scania Hazida Gender Dialogue

A gender dialogue was held at Scania Hazida Zambia on 18 February for 23 employees who discussed gender roles, barriers to gender inequality and possible solutions. A highlight of the discussions was recognition by male employees that some of their values and actions were discriminatory towards women.

Gender dialogues will be taking place at various workplaces within the SWHAP network this year as part of efforts to mainstream gender and manage diversity within workplace HIV and AIDS programmes.

Workplace Condom Audit

A recent survey in Kenya (Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey KAIS II) revealed low condom use with sexual partners of unknown HIV status (7.1% among women and 27.1% among men). These are worrying statistics given that the main mode of HIV transmission in Kenya is sexual intercourse.

Consequently, six companies within the SWHAP programme (SKF, Amazon Motors, Assa Abloy, Tamarind Translations, HemoCue and SAAB) conducted audits at their workplaces to assess condom availability, frequency of use, and knowledge and attitudes regarding use.

Results showed that 60% of the workplaces surveyed had condom dispensers located in a place with convenient access for employees, however half of this figure did not have condoms in them.  On average over 87 000 male condoms were distributed per month compared to only 10 female condoms. Interestingly 100% condom use was reported in females aged 20-24 and males aged over 50 in sharp contrast to females over 50 who reported not using condoms at all. 70% of respondents said they had received training on condom use.

The survey highlights the importance of addressing the stigma relating to condom use as well as insuring consistent accessible supply of condoms at the workplace. Condoms are an effective and relatively cheap prevention method against HIV, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.

The condom audit was made possible through a partnership with the National AIDS Control Council (NACC), Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and LVCT Health who are working together to enhance private sector capacity to prevent new infections at the workplace.

SKF employees collecting their workplace supply of condoms

Valentine’s Day – Loving Responsibly

SWHAP and its partners tapped into Valentine’s Day and International Condom Day (commemorated on 13 February) to raise awareness on sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and HIV prevention.

In South Africa, ABB in partnership with the Department of Health held a workshop for high school children under the theme “Educated for Love” where age appropriate SRHR information was shared.

ABB South Africa youth outreach

Building on from the condom audit, workplaces in Kenya participated in a condom challenge to promote their consistent and correct use. The King of Condoms, a popular condom advocate in Kenya, visited SKF, Tamarind, SAAB and Assa Abloy initiating dialogues to destigmatise condom use. The challenge received considerable attention on social media in Kenya.

King of Condoms with employees at SKF

Peer Educators in Zimbabwe attended a workshop themed “Loving Responsibly” where they explored the responsibilities of men and women in preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other health conditions. Participants noted that condoms were an effective means to prevent HIV, STIs and unintended pregnancies if used correctly and consistently. Discussions also looked at challenges in the procurement and use of both male and female condoms. It was noted that the female condom was less user-friendly due to its size and cultural factors limiting women’s capacity to negotiate and enforce its use, especially in marriage. The Peer Educators however acknowledged that despite these limitations it was a viable alternative for women, offering them the opportunity to determine safer sex for themselves and their partners.

A drama presentation by an industrial theatre group examined, sexual relationships and sexual harassment in the workplace and the benefits of having an internal locus of control regarding health in order to develop positive attitudes towards HIV prevention.

The group agreed on the role of responsible loving as a preventive strategy against HIV and other STIs not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.

Drama on sexual harassment in the workplace

Supply Chain and Mentorship Updates

Congratulations to Sandvik South Africa who launched their supply chain programme on 17 February. The programme will assist five companies employing over 700 people within Sandvik’s value chain to set up and implement sustainable workplace HIV and wellness programmes.

In Zimbabwe, the Ericom Communications mentorship of Davies Granite is progressing well. During February, training enhanced the skills of the peer education team to become leaders capable of initiating behaviour change in their workplace. Pre-workshop and post workshop tests showed a 23% increment in the overall understanding of sexual reproductive health, workplace peer education activities, HIV counselling and testing, peer counselling and wellness. In the same month, Granite Davies also conducted a wellness day for employees and community members. 85 people were tested for HIV while 81 underwent blood pressure, blood sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI) checks.

Spouse Peer Educators from Granite Davies promoted testing on the wellness day

Ericsson Uganda concluded the first phase of their mentorship programme with the People’s Performance Group (PPG) at a meeting held on 27 February. Ericsson has mentored the company to address HIV in its workforce, and conduct testing for employees. Over three days in November last year, 136 workers tested for blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index and HIV; 20 were testing for the first time. As part of establishing the company baseline a knowledge, attitude, behaviour and practice (KABP) survey was also conducted. It revealed some gaps on HIV transmission and prevention of mother-to-child transmission: providing some important information for the design of the PPG wellness programme. The company will now promote consistent condom use, implement a strategy to reduce stigma and discrimination and support a coordinated information, education and behaviour change communication strategy.

The programme will assist in addressing the health needs of the relatively young workforce at PPG; in a country where HIV is having a disproportionate effect on youth and the productive sector.

HIV and wellness testing at PPG in November 2016

As part of its gender outreach programme, Sodeico Manpower will be mentoring the Association of Female Entrepreneurs of the DRC (ASSOFE) to set up and implement HIV and wellness programmes within the members’ respective organisations. Preparations for the mentorship are at an advanced stage with the two organisations having met over two occasions in February to finalise details.