As the world grapples with the spread of COVID-19, sustaining the fight against malaria is critical now more than ever. We are continuing to highlight the importance of continuity and innovation in malaria programing and the work of our partners. A manufacturer of critical vector control products, Sumitomo Chemical is a member of the Private Sector Constituency to the Global Fund and an advocate for the elimination of malaria through multiple generations and leadership transitions and is reconfirming their commitment to malaria eradication as they undergo an important transition.
Malaria in the time of COVID-19
COVID-19 is ravaging communities across the globe, causing massive disruptions to health systems, supply chains and lifesaving services. While responding to this crisis is critical, our past offers many examples of what this crisis could mean for other diseases. For example, disruptions to malaria programs have led to over 75 major resurgences in the past. In those cases, the disruptions were typically linked to isolated situations of reduced malaria funding. A mass disruption of malaria programs across endemic countries on such a scale of what could happen in the coming months could precipitate an unprecedented global resurgence in the disease, reversing decades of progress in just a few months. While there are currently a lot of unknowns around how COVID-19 will affect malaria programs, worst case scenario modeling projects the possibility of returning to malaria rates seen before the year 2000.
A resurgence in malaria will leave vulnerable populations most at risk for adverse effects, particularly children under five and pregnant women. During the Ebola outbreak of 2014 to 2016, an additional 7,000 malaria deaths occurred in children under five in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In response to this threat, the WHO is encouraging countries to maintain the planning and implementation of vector control activities, while ensuring that health workers are protected.
As many countries across the world enter malaria transmission season, it is critical that essential funding, malaria products and personal protective equipment are in place and accessible to avoid a major outbreak and avoid a potentially devastating setback in the substantial progress made to eliminate malaria. Even with mass campaigns and intervention, malaria still kills over 400,000 per year; the threat of cutting essential services may lead to more deaths due to malaria than from COVID-19 alone.
A longstanding commitment to improving society
Founded over 400 years ago by Masatomo Sumitomo, the Sumitomo Group of companies relies on his “Founder’s Precepts,” which stipulates that to succeed in the long-term, business activities must benefit society. Sumitomo Chemical exemplifies this model, as they continue to innovate and manufacture tools to fight malaria despite facing the many economic and technical challenges in the development of vector control tools over the years.
Sumitomo Chemical provides a full range of vector control interventions to fight malaria and other vector-borne diseases. Soon after receiving the first World Health Organization recommendation for a long-lasting insecticide-treated net (LLIN) with the Olyset Net nearly 20 years ago, Sumitomo Chemical initiated manufacturing in Tanzania with their partner, A to Z Textile Mills. They were eventually able to scale up local production of bed nets to create 7,000 jobs, 90% of them for women. More recently, with the launch of SumiShield 50WG in 2017, they developed the first indoor residual spray containing a new single mode of action active ingredient to combat widespread resistance to pyrethroids in Africa. Along with larvicide and space sprays, Sumitomo Chemical leverages its historical expertise in vector control with a strong commitment to innovate tools for malaria eradication.
Reconfirming SCC’s ongoing commitment to eradicate malaria
An executive leadership transition is underway at Sumitomo Chemical’s Health & Crop Sciences Sector. After leading Sumitomo Chemical in global partnership to eliminate malaria for more than a decade, Ray Nishimoto will soon take over as President of Koei Chemical, a Sumitomo company and leader in the fine chemicals business.
His successor as President of the Health & Crop Sciences Sector is Dr. Nobuaki Mito, a research scientist who has focused on vector control and has strong experience in business planning and management. Dr. Mito joined Sumitomo Chemical in 1985 and has served in a variety of capacities over the past 35 years. His most recent role was as the Managing Executive Officer responsible for Planning, R&D and Pharmaceutical Chemicals Department within the Health & Crop Sciences Sector. Dr. Mito is to be appointed as Representative Director of Sumitomo Chemical in the annual shareholders’ meeting. Nishimoto-san is working closely with Dr. Mito, to make sure there is a seamless transition as Sumitomo Chemical continues their critical work to end malaria in our lifetimes.
“Our commitment to malaria will not change,” said Nishimoto. “I hold Sumitomo Chemical’s contribution to the remarkable global successes in beating back malaria during my tenure among the highlights of my career.” He will continue serving in certain malaria governance roles in a personal capacity.
“In keeping with our Founder’s Precepts, Sumitomo Chemical will continue to prioritize its initiatives to end malaria,” said Mito. “We will continue innovating and manufacturing tools to fight malaria until this ancient disease is eradicated.”
- RBM Advocacy & Communications Toolkit
- World Health Organization: Malaria and the COVID-19 pandemic Q&A
- World Health Organization: Tailoring malaria interventions in the COVID-19 response
- World Health Organization: WHO urges countries to ensure the continuity of malaria services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic