Features  |  Health  

Etisalat takes healthcare initiatives to communities

By Peter Ijeomah |   17 December 2015   |   2:51 am  

Nigeria telecommunications operator, Etisalat is now in the forefront of supporting governments by launching health related Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives that empower people to live healthier lives.

One of the several health initiatives is its recent anti-malaria campaign, tagged Fight Malaria. Malaria remains one silent and deadly killer disease that has resulted in the death of millions of people across the world, but is most devastating in Africa including Nigeria. Malaria is said to affect between 300 and 500 million people annually with more than one million deaths. It affects mostly young children under the age of five and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa resulting in a death rate of nearly 3,000 every day. In Africa malaria causes approximately 20 per cent of all child deaths and in Nigeria between 400,000 and 600,000 children die annually due to this preventable disease.

The Fight Malaria initiative is a two – pronged approach combining education and active action, adopted to actively combat the disease which is one of the most rampant killers of Nigerians and a detriment to the growth of the Nigerian economy.

Under the initiative, Etisalat Nigeria has distributed several insecticide-treated nets to local government areas and secondary schools in different communities across Nigeria. As part of the strategy to sustain the initiative, the schools in which the insecticide treated nets were distributed have instituted in them ‘Student Leaders Against Malaria’ (SLAM) clubs.

This initiative was piloted in Kano State, in partnership with the Malaria Foundation International (MFI), and its Nigerian affiliate, the Society for Youth Awareness and Health Development (SYAHD). In addition, Etisalat has partnered with Malaria No More, the National Malaria Elimination Program and the Federal Ministry of Health, to disseminate information on the prevention and control of the spread of malaria. This partnership on the Malaria Free Nigeria – Play your part campaign, was done with the end goal of ultimately eliminating the malaria scourge from Nigeria.

Speaking about the initiative, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher, said the intervention was in alignment with the telecoms company’s core brand positioning as a customer-friendly and innovative service provider. “At Etisalat we believe that the customer comes first and for us, business is not just about ways of making money; We are eager to impact on people and communities which is why we are partnering with established organisations on this project that will help people enjoy better health by warding off malaria,” he said.

Also speaking about the anti-malaria initiative, Vice President, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Etisalat Nigeria, Ibrahim Dikko, said as a socially responsible citizen, the project was also to demonstrate the company’s belief in the health-is- wealth philosophy. He stated that the details of the programme include citizens’ enlightenment on all media platforms as well as partnership with leading celebrities. “There is also the need to enlighten the public on the need for a cleaner and neater environment since mosquitoes which are the major transmission agents of malaria, breed and populate in dirty environments,” he stated.

The campaign included radio and television broadcast with the core message built around encouraging Nigerians to sleep under insecticide-treated mosquito nets, seek timely diagnosis and maintain clean environments. He stressed that the message was actively broadcasted in 2014 and featured some of Nigeria’s most popular celebrities like Bez, Femi Kuti, Funke Akindele, I Go Dye, Mikel Obi, Stephen Keshi, Victor Moses, Vincent Enyeama, Waje and Zebrudaya.

The messages were geared towards reminding people to sleep under insecticide-treated mosquito nets, seek timely diagnosis as well as appropriate treatment with a view to building on Malaria No More’s innovative “NightWatch Campaign” which is already proving successful in some other African countries”, he explained.

Etisalat has also been actively involved in combating Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Nigeria. In fact, in recent times, Etisalat has boosted the drive for increased awareness, prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in the country through the provision of a toll-free line for the National Call Centre of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA). This makes it possible for Etisalat customers to call the centre for free to receive information and counseling on HIV/AIDS and related issues.

Etisalat is also providing technical support and back-up for the seamless operation of the agency’s call centre in the war against HIV/AIDS. In a bid to reinforce its commitment towards this intervention, Etisalat partnership with the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) was recently established to reinforce efforts towards eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

In the same vein, Etisalat is also actively involved in an m-health initiative on combating maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria. “According to United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria is the global second largest contributor to the maternal and infant mortality rate. “Therefore at Etisalat Nigeria, we support the m-health initiative as part of our growing efforts to uphold good health practices and eliminate causes of maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria, with mobile technology,” Willsher said.

He said further that through the m-health platform, phone lines and data were being distributed to healthcare providers, to enable them correctly examine and diagnose conditions that cause maternal and infant mortality. Willsher said, “Etisalat has partnered with Instrat Global Health Solutions for a smooth registration and data collection process, powered by Etisalat Nigeria’s 3G technology. The mobile partner solution Clinipak wirelessly captures patient data and delivers real time reporting. It helps healthcare workers increase productivity and modernizes the clinical experience, creating a huge impact on health management.”

It is equally instructive to note that, Etisalat played very important role in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Nigeria, in 2014 through its ubiquitous public enlightenment programs in different Nigerian languages across the length and breadth of the country. The telco also donated medical materials, beddings, clothes, drugs and important relief materials to victims and communities.

Expatiating on how much Etisalat contributed to the fight against Ebola, Dikko, said the company was concerned by the official statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which indicated that a good number of fatalities emanated from the Ebola.

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