MAC: Mines and Communities

Polluting miner gets $130m health grant for Ghana

Published by MAC on 2011-03-28
Source: Public Agenda

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria* is backing one of Africa's biggest mining companies in carrying out a malarial control programme in Ghana.

Its decision is  - to say the least - "baffling" the country's NGO coalition on health.

According to one commentator, AngloGold Ashanti was selected as the "principal recipient" of the US$139 million, because it started a malaria programme in some areas of its huge Obuasi gold fields (in January 2006).

However, a scathing report on conditions at Obuasi, published by Action Aid later that year, accused AngloGold Ashanti of causing massive water pollution and leaving bodies of standing water which were fertile breeding grounds for  mosquitoes. See:

Gold Rush: the impact of gold mining on poor people in Obuasi in Ghana:

* The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is funded by a large number of government and intergovernmental development agencies, with support from private companies that include Chevron and Standard Bank

Ghana: Storm over $130m grant to Anglogold

By Ama A. Amankwah Baafi

Public Agenda

21 March 2011

The Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health (GCNH) has questioned the selection of AngloGold Ashanti by the Global Fund for HIV, Tuberculosis and malaria control, to carry out malaria programmes in Ghana.

AngloGold received an amount of about $130 million last year to extend its malaria programme to 40 districts in the Ashanti, Western, Northern, Upper East and West, Regions.

The coalition argues that it is often civil society organizations that are responsible for such activities in all countries, and is therefore baffled as to why in Ghana a multinational company was given that mandate. According to the group, the whole nation could have benefited from the amount if it had been given the money, as it has members nationwide who could have prosecuted the programme, unlike AngloGold which is doing the work only in districts of aforementioned Regions.

It alleged that AngloGold made a huge profit last year and could have organized the amount of money it has been given for such an assignment as corporate social responsibility. "Is it fair for a company that makes such profit to be given such grant meant for the whole country?

The Global Fund gathers money from other multinational companies in the world therefore it is not fair that AngloGold should be the principal recipient," Dr. Joan Awunyo-Akaba, National Chairperson of the coalition argued.

She continued, "If it is true that AngloGold is trying to set up its NGO so it can share the money as a sub-recipient then I think it is unethical. Our information is that AngloGold has used only about $6 million of the money and has not covered even the slated districts. The money belongs to the people of Ghana so it is not too late for the company to get in touch with the coalition and work with us."

However, speaking to Public Agenda, a Health and Management Consultant, Dr. Kofi Ahmed, explained that there may be an apparent delay because as with Global Fund programmes where items are supposed to be tax free, AngloGold being a private company was granted the tax exemption only about a month ago, excluding local taxes.

He stated that usually countries put up proposals to be considered for the Global Fund, and that last year the Fund placed emphasis on malaria with a focus on indoor residual spraying (IRS). In all, IRS is said to have the most impact in reducing the incidence of malaria. IRS entails the spraying of insecticide on the interior walls of all the structures/buildings in the targeted area.

There are reports which indicate that residual insecticide remain active on a sprayed surface including walls, under tables, etc. for about six months after spraying and so any mosquito alighting on the sprayed surface and comes into contact with the insecticide will pick up the lethal dose and die within a short period. The process is most effective since the malaria vector mosquito, the anopheles, is an indoor biting and dwelling mosquito which rests on walls.

Dr. Ahmed said , on revision of previous grants, the Fund realized that some countries misused the money so they suggested for country coordinating mechanism to utilize the grant. It also demanded that proposals should be for IRS, training people to do it in a technical way.

At that time, AngloGold, he stated, had started its malaria programme with support from Nogouchi Research Institute in some areas in Obuasi. Therefore its proposal through the Ministry of Health was selected as the principal recipient. He said the members of the coalition could apply to AngloGold through the Country Coordinating Mechanism as sub-recipient and they must demonstrate their competency.

The vision of the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health is to build a strong and dynamic Civil Society umbrella organization that will contribute to building a Ghana free of diseases and ill-health. Its motto is "Working together to promote good health." Its objectives include leading NGOs in health to advocate and campaign for quality health care for all and to promote research for health development.

In 2005 AngloGold Ashanti implemented an integrated malaria control programme at Obuasi and associated communities, which was said to have led to impressive results in curbing malaria in the area. Reports say that the programme's initial objective was to achieve a 50% reduction in the incidence of malaria within two years, beginning January 2005. By October 2008, reported malaria cases had declined by 74% from an average of 68,000 cases per month in 2005 to 1,200 in 2008.

Attempts by this paper to talk to AngloGold proved futile as we were told the officer in charge of the company's malaria programme was out of the country.

When Public Agenda contacted Mr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at AngloGold Ashanti, Ghana Office, he explained that his company attracted the grant from the Global Fund following its success story in malaria control in Obuasi.

He said his company applied for support from the Global Fund for the Obuasi project, for which they had already spent $5 million, and so after assessment they were asked to do more than just Obuasi. "The Global Fund was looking for competent people in the private sector to run the project following unfortunate incidences in some countries that led to the withdrawal of the Fund. When the Fund realized that the money was being wasted, it only approved after final audit and since AngloGold has a brand it was selected."

He contended that the GF has limited budget and since it was not a charity organization it could only provide $133 million, while AngloGold would provide infrastructure and human capital for the project in the 40 districts: 30 in the three northern regions, 7 in Ashanti and 3 in Western and Central Regions after their baseline proved high malaria prevalence in these areas.

"So you see it is a partnership. We got the amount because in our own bid we did something and we are doing it for the good of the nation and not for ourselves. We believe we can win other grants for Ghana if we are successful." As to why the implementation of the programme has delayed, he said they had to go to Parliament for tax exemption. However, he could not state if there were plans to extend invitation to the Ghana NGO Coalition on Health as sub-recipients, adding that, "the Fund is very critical such that it goes to the extent of auditing even sub-recipients."

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