The focus of World Health Day this year is vector-borne diseases. Vector-borne diseases include malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, schistosomiasis and yellow fever and are carried by mosquitoes, bugs, ticks, flies, freshwater snails and other vectors. According to the World Health Organisation more than half of the world’s population is at risk of these diseases. Apart from untold suffering, these diseases are also responsible for decreased productivity, employee absenteeism and increased health-care costs.
Poor hygiene and poor water and waste management are contributing factors to most common vector-borne diseases. This makes an integrated approach using a range of interventions such as treated bed-nets, indoor residual spraying, awareness raising programmes, water and waste management necessary for prevention and control. Workplaces are an important arena to raise awareness on the vector-borne diseases and to support national intervention and control programmes. Workplace HIV and Wellness Programmes within the SWHAP network have embraced a comprehensive approach to wellness addressing environmental factors that put employees and their families at risk of disease. Companies such as Atlas Copco in Zambia run programmes ensuring access to safer water supplies whilst in Zimbabwe, Sandvik champions environmental awareness and clean-up operations in its community.
Malaria takes a high toll in regions hard hit by HIV and AIDS as it has been proven to worsen the effects of HIV and AIDS and vice versa. Many SWHAP supported companies, particularly in Zambia and DRC include malaria prevention in their workplace programme as a strategy to mitigate the impact of malaria. Treated bed-nets are distributed to employees and their families in areas where malaria is a problem. Companies report significant reduction in absenteeism as a result of both the HIV and malaria programmes. Programmes also extend into communities with some companies supporting national intervention programmes.
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