In 2011, the UK's Health Protection Agency recorded 1,677 cases of malaria in the country. The majority of cases were members of the diaspora who had gone to visit friends or relatives. When the figures were released on World Malaria Day 2012, the HPA said that the figures illustrated the common misconception among the diaspora that they are immune to malaria, and that prevention messages were clearly not getting through to these communities.
For Annemarie Meyer, Africa programmes and policy manager at Malaria No More UK, this is a missed opportunity on two counts: first because the disease is entirely preventable, and second because the diaspora represents a potentially powerful ally in the fight against malaria.
"A lot of diaspora members have connections with businesses, politicians or the media in malaria-endemic countries," she says. "They have the opportunity to influence them and engage them."
Corinne Puemo, president of Femmes Dynamiques, a London-based association of African women, came to the same conclusion after a trip to an orphanage in her native Cameroon revealed the extent of malaria prevalence among orphans.
"We had to do something to make people more aware of how to protect themselves from this deadly disease," she says.
Back in London, she organised a malaria workshop with a Cameroonian doctor to learn more about the disease. "We realised that many people – including myself – knew very little about malaria. It was very basic; I knew nothing of the long-term complications of the diseases such as heart disease, kidney problems etc," she says.
Following this wake-up call, Puemo and Femmes Dynamiques organised a conference in Cameroon involving local business leaders (multinationals such as bank Bicec, Orange, electricity utility AES-Sonel, as well as small businesses), public health officials and local councillors. It was broadcast on national television and proved a success among participants, many of whom have now taken up the malaria prevention message with their employees.