Malaria is a chronic and debilitating disease which impacts some of the jurisdictions where we operate, or seek to operate. It threatens half the world’s population, kills one child every two minutes(1) and is a significant obstacle to human development.
People are carriers of malaria parasites, which multiply rapidly in the liver and red blood cells. Mosquito bites transfer the parasites from person to person.
Newcrest has a long-term commitment to malaria research and prevention through our Lihir Malaria Elimination Program (LMEP), run in partnership with the Medicines for Malaria Venture. The program aims to eliminate malaria parasites from the Lihirian population, depriving mosquitoes of parasites to transmit.
LMEP’s community awareness programs aim to improve behaviours that prevent people being bitten by mosquitoes and to reduce the number of mosquitoes around the human population.
During the year our program trained 64 Village Malaria Assistants in key areas of malaria prevention and control. The training covered topics such as signs and symptoms, malaria diagnosis and treatment, mosquito behaviours and malaria prevention, including use of mosquito nets, personal protective equipment and reduction of mosquito breeding places. More than 75% of these assistants are now actively working in their communities raising awareness and encouraging the adoption of healthier behaviours.
LMEP also ran an education campaign in all 43 schools throughout the Lihir Group of Islands; strengthened diagnosis, treatment and reporting of malaria cases in the local primary health system; and replenished supplies of both the Rapid Diagnosis Test for malaria, to ensure accurate testing, and anti-malarial drugs.
To evaluate the risk of malaria being reintroduced, the program surveyed people entering the Lihir region via the main wharf and the airport. This found at least 10% of inbound passengers carry at least one type of malaria parasite in their blood. Work is now underway to map population movements in more detail and further analyse the possible link with transmission of the disease.
Incidence data collected in the Lihirian health facilities showed a slight increase in 2018, although we believe that this was a result of improved diagnosis and reporting rather than an increase in infections. During the same period malaria incidence rates in the broader New Ireland Province continued to grow by 30% year-on-year.(1)