Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

February 22, 2006

Malaria message in a bottle

Filed under: Neglected diseases — admin @ 10:44 pm

I came across an intriguing post on Boing Boing tonight. It reads:

“Little magazines that come stuck to pop bottles
A marketing student’s project to produce little magazines that are shipped under the removable label of a pop bottle is going into commercial production. The idea is to bypass traditional distribution systems and economics, and piggyback on the far-more-sophisticated soft drink distribution infrastructure.”

The coincidence is that when I attended the UN Millennium Project’s Nobel Forum meeting in Stockholm at the end of last month, I discussed the problems in getting information on malaria and other diseases out to remote villages in Africa with Kenya’s health minister, Charity Kaluki Ngilu. I mentioned that even in the most remote areas of Africa one could almost always find soft drinks, and suggested that perhaps she should think about piggybacking health programmes on top of such distribution infrastructures. I haven’t thought about this in detail, but it seems like an idea worth pursuing.

Update: Here’s what Coca Cola’s African website says:

“The Coca-Cola Company is Africa’s soft drinks leader. We have operations across the continent and our products are in every home, workplace and community.

Every day, about 78 million servings of Coca-Cola products are consumed in Africa. These are produced and distributed by over 170 bottling and canning plants, and then sold by 900,000 retail partners, making the Coca-Cola system Africa’s largest consumer goods provider.

And with over 60,000 employees, the Coca-Cola system in Africa is also the continent’s largest private sector employer. It is estimated that for every person employed by the Coca-Cola system, a further 10 people are employed in related industries, through the sale of Coca-Cola products, or by supplying the company and its associate bottlers with goods and services

At a time when the private sector in Africa is being recognised as crucial to the continent’s development, we are proud to be playing such a leading role.

Over the last five years alone, we have invested more than $US600 million in Africa, much of this going into new plants, updated equipment and advanced employee training.

But our contribution goes beyond being a leading investor and employer. As part of our mission to be a model citizen and a leading partner for the continent’s development, we pioneer and support a wide range of community initiatives in Africa, focusing on healthcare, education and the environment. At the apex of these is our employee healthcare programme, the largest such programme of its kind in Africa.

This community work is coordinated by The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, which is headquartered in Manzini, Swaziland.”

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