The Sumitomo Chemical Group includes some 100 companies operating around the world in six business sectors: basic chemicals, petrochemicals and plastics, fine chemicals, IT-related chemicals, agricultural chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. Although Sumitomo Chemical has diversified its operations over the years to keep abreast of the changing times, the company maintains the basic policy that its operations must not only profit itself but must also benefit society at large.
Conquering malaria is a major challenge for the developing world. In Africa, a child dies from malaria at least every 30 seconds - there are over one million deaths per year from this preventable disease, with consequent huge negative social and economic impact.
Long-Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs) are proven, effective tools in the fight against malaria. Sumitomo Chemical has harnessed its considerable development resources to produce the unique Olyset® net, which reduces malaria incidence by preventing blood feeding of malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes. The first LLIN to be recommended by the World Health Organization, the Olyset net is tough, durable and wash-proof. Insecticide is incorporated within the net's fibres during manufacture, for slow release over a sustained period of time. Consequently, Olyset nets never need re-treatment with insecticide, and are guaranteed to be effective for a minimum of five years. Previously, nets needed to be re-treated every 6 months. Various studies have shown that the majority of users fail to re-treat nets - Olyset overcomes this problem. In field tests, Olyset has been shown to still be effective after seven years.
Sumitomo Chemical has established large-scale production of Olyset nets to meet the surge in global demand for LLIN technology. Production capacity is currently almost 20 million nets per annum, and will increase to 30 million in 2007. Olyset nets are sold to publicly funded health agencies at lowest cost, under Sumitomo Chemical's corporate social responsibility program.
Because Sumitomo Chemical is committed to sustainable development, manufacturing of Olyset nets emphasises local job creation and business partnerships in Africa. Production of Olyset nets started in Arusha, Tanzania in 2003 through A to Z Textiles, an established local company. A royalty-free technology license from Sumitomo Chemical and additional funding from the Acumen Fund led to 1,000 new jobs and annual production of 3 million Olyset nets.
Late in 2005, Sumitomo Chemical announced a new joint venture with the owners of A to Z. A new Olyset production facility built on a green field site is the goal. Approximately 1200 additional employees operating extruders, knitting and sewing machines are planned for. With assistance from the Tanzanian Government, electricity and water has been supplied to the new site, and a new road to service the facility is currently under construction. This factory will be the largest employer in Arusha, and one of the largest in Africa. Total annual Olyset net production capacity in Tanzania will be over 8 million nets once the facility is fully operational in 2007.
In addition, providing practical and charitable aid is integral to Sumitomo's philosophy. Sumitomo Chemical has committed over 330,000 Olyset LLINs (worth approximately $2m) to the Millennium Villages project in Africa; these nets will help protect around half a million people against the threat of malaria. The Millennium Villages project provides impoverished African villages with proven, practical technologies that will allow them to function without the debilitating burden of disease and become selfsustaining. Millennium Villages have been established in 10 different countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
Initial research will establish the baseline prevalence of malaria in the villages. Further tests will then be conducted after 2 years and 5 years, with simultaneous research on the number of households reporting malaria incidence and regular, random blood tests for malaria. It is anticipated that the use of Olyset LLINs, which are proven to remain effective for the full duration of the evaluation period, will provide significant reduction in malaria incidence.
The eradication of malaria requires straightforward commitment and investment. The developed world can help by committing appropriate resources. Disease reduction and life empowerment - through jobs and improved well-being - are achievable. They can save millions of lives and advance quality of life for millions more.