By Orla Ryan
OBUASI, Ghana (Reuters) – Ghanaian mineworker James Ankoma
knows what it is like to be laid low with malaria.
“Body weakness, painful joints, high temperatures and
chills,” he says, listing the symptoms of a disease which the
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates kills over one
million people a year globally, many of them in sub-Saharan
Already this year, Ankoma has taken four days off work at
Ghana’s oldest mine, Obuasi, to recuperate from malaria. And he
isn’t the only one.
Ankoma’s employer, gold giant AngloGold Ashanti, estimates
malaria costs it $4.5 million a year at Obuasi in absenteeism,
lost productivity and treatment costs.
“It brings down the strength of the workers in Obuasi, it
can also affect the income of the worker,” Ankoma said.
Obuasi, which has a 30-year mine life and employs 8,000
people, is AngloGold’s biggest mine in Ghana, Africa’s
second-biggest exporter of gold after South Africa.
AngloGold hopes to reduce its malaria bill with an
aggressive anti-malaria campaign, which aims to halve the
incidence of the disease in Obuasi by 2008.
By August every house in Obuasi will have been sprayed with
insecticide in the first stage of an ongoing program aimed at
killing the mosquitoes which carry the disease.
AngloGold officials said the chemical is not DDT. The
mosquitoes in the Obuasi mine area, as in many other parts of
Ghana and Africa, have become resistant to DDT, which also has
a bad environmental reputation.
Every day 116 sprayers are at work in the ramshackle shanty
towns that make up Obuasi, spraying walls, under tables, beds
and behind pictures and attaching a blue sticker to every
Under the program, which will run indefinitely and cost
$1.3 million a year, some bed nets will be given away while
more will be sold at subsidized prices.
SHAFTS LIKE TENTACLES
With its deep underground shafts spread like tentacles
through the town, the AngloGold Ashanti plan targets 250,000
residents in Obuasi as well as the mine employees.
Gold Fields Ltd., AngloGold and Golden Star may link up to
run a similar scheme in Tarkwa, a mining town near which all
three firms have operations, Steve Knowles, manager of the
AngloGold’s Malaria Control Program, said.
“It makes economic sense, you are not just giving money to
the community, that is what you can sell to head offices and
board rooms,” Knowles said.
The pungent smell of the insecticide deters some residents
but the vast majority want to take part.
For Josephine Oduro, so sick with malaria during pregnancy
that she lost her baby at birth, the spraying may free her and
her family from the threat of the disease.
Her two children, Jacob, 6, and Franklin, 3, frequently get
malaria and each hospital treatment sets her back 100,000 cedis
($11), a hefty figure for a market trader.
“We have just been sprayed for the first time, I believe it
will work,” she said.