“Dirty” and “Smelly” cities pose a threat to insurers

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Dirt in Harare is quite an eyesore and this will promote the outbreak of diseases

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” goes an old proverb. Preventive approaches in healthcare have helped many more people more than any medical treatment ever given.

BY DONALD TAFADZWA CHIDOORI

Zimbabwe has over the past few years been dogged by a worrying trend of cholera and typhoid fever outbreaks, which can  simply be prevented by sanitary measures.

Players in the Insurance Industry told Risk and Insure Zimbabwe in interviews during  a Harare CBD City Clean-up and Wellness Campaign held last Thursday, that outbreaks of cholera epidemics and typhoid could have dire consequences for the insurance industry.

Diseases like cholera and typhoid are linked to lack of cleanliness, poor sanitation, not washing hands in food preparation, impure water, contaminated food and the like. And central business districts like Harare which are “dirty” and “smelly” could be harbingers of a cholera epidemic outbreak.

Cities in Africa, including Harare are some of the dirtiest cities in the world. “In Africa, 115 people die every hour from diseases linked to poor sanitation, poor hygiene and contaminated water (Water Without Borders).”

The impact on a cholera epidemic or typhoid outbreak on the economy can vary based on its imminent and long-term severity. For the insurance industry, especially life and health insurance, the effects of an epidemic can be considerable. The rise in mortality among the insured population would result in higher claims expenses for term, whole life, endowment and other life insurances paying death benefits.

Health insurance and disability covers would be affected as well. The impact on health insurance would depend on the rate of hospitalizations, insurance premiums, and outpatient visits.

In addition, a cholera or typhoid pandemic is likely to have a major impact on capital markets, which would have implications for the assets side of insurance companies’ balance sheets.

The potential negative impact of diseases linked to poor sanitation on the insurance industry drove insurance companies to join other players in the cleanliness and wellness campaign. In a bid to help clean the city and educate members of the public on sanitation and cleanliness and of cause sale their insurance products.

“We have come here to partner with the government to partner with the city council to ensure our environment is clean, to ensure our city is clean because we are also a key stakeholder. We derive our customers from the city from the country so we need to ensure that our customers are living in a healthy environment.

“As an insurance company we insure the lives of people so we have to make sure that our people are healthy. So that when they come to take their life policies, if they are healthy their premiums are lower and they make savings from that,” said Daniel Hamadziripi a Client Executive – General Insurance at Zimnat.

Alliance Health Marketing Officer, Esther Masiye said that cleanliness was a preventive measure to fight against diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

“Cleanliness helps to reduce the likelihood of epidemics. It helps to reduce the scourge of diseases like cholera and typhoid because these are spread when the community is not clean, when we have dirty water sources, when we have dirty streets. So if the city is clean and everybody is made aware of cleanliness it helps to reduce the spread of these diseases,” Masiye said.

Masiye also said that while cleanliness was important to fight against diseases such as cholera. It was also important for people to have health insurance as it would help people to go to the doctor for preventive services and get the care that they need to stay healthy and prevent serious illnesses.

Medical costs in Zimbabwe continue to skyrocket such that access to treatment has become a luxury many low income families cannot afford. With Health Insurance when you and your family get sick or diagnosed with cancer or a heart condition you can be treated and avoid having the condition get worse.

“At Alliance Health we offer five very broad packages we believe in making sure that our packages suit the lifestyle of our members. So if it so happens that you are ridden with one of these cholera, typhoid or any one of these diseases you are fully covered.

“We will cater for hospital treatment we will cater for medicines and drugs we will basically cover the member to ensure that you don’t suffer from any financial loss when you find yourself in a position where you are not feeling well,” Masiye said.

Members of the public who participated at the cleanliness and wellness campaign said that cleanliness should not  just be a one day event, but should be a daily habit. They also said it was not only the responsibility of local authorities to keep cities and towns clean but the responsibility of every ”civilised” Zimbabwean.

“This initiative shouldn’t just stop today, it should go on as citizens we shouldn’t be rallied to clean our city, its something that should be within us. To say I have a moral responsibility to keep my city clean. So going forward we just urge everybody who was here and everybody who is wherever they are in Zimbabwe just try to keep wherever you are clean because at the end of the day its all about Zimbabwe so lets try to keep Zimbabwe clean,” urged Alliance Health   – Customer Care Supervisor, Kevin Chitenhe.

After a days work cleaning the Harare CBD and free health checkups the message from the organizers and the participants was clear. Cleanliness is the first step to being Healthy, being clean is not only nice it’s actually a necessity for good mental and physical health and can save your pocket from unexpected hospital bills.

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