Ministers endorse declaration set to pave the way to zero TB deaths among miners in Southern Africa

27 April 2012 - Luanda, Angola - Ministers of Health and Labour from the 15 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries have endorsed a declaration on tuberculosis (TB) in the mining sector that is designed to drive a regional response to the issue.

The declaration is now due for signature by the 15 SADC heads of state at a ceremony in Maputo, Mozambique, in August 2012.

Mine workers in Southern Africa have the highest rate of TB in the world, with an estimated 3 to 7 per cent of mine workers developing active TB each year. The mining industry is heavily dependent on migrant workers from surrounding countries, particularly Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, as well as from rural areas in South Africa.

The ministers acknowledged both the scale of the problem and the clear economic benefits of a regional response targeting elimination of TB in the mines. They agreed that all miners who become ill with TB must be identified and provided with treatment. In addition, intensified outreach activities must be put in place to stop TB spreading to miners’ families and communities, who are also heavily affected.

Resolutions passed at the meeting included a call for a single database to track miners’ employment and healthcare as they travel across the region; a request for SADC guidance on what activities are needed to eliminate TB among miners and how they should be implemented; and a request for more detailed analytic work on the economic impact of TB in the mining sector and the most effective solutions.

Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board members Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng and Benedict Xaba, health ministers of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland respectively have been a driving force behind the SADC declaration. The three ministers raised the issue to the Southern African Development Community agenda (SADC) in November 2011. This was followed in March 2012 by a SADC stakeholders meeting in Johannesburg at which representatives from governments, trade unions, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and donors provided their input to the declaration and code of conduct on TB in the mining sector.

At the meeting in Luanda, ministers Motsoaledi and Xaba thanked the Stop TB Partnership, the World Bank, the International Organization of Migration and other partners for driving the SADC process forward. In addition, Minister Xaba praised SADC experts for their work drafting the declaration and said the preparatory work for the meeting allowed the ministers to make effective decisions, Angola Press reported.

"This is a very encouraging step towards ensuring proper diagnosis and care for all people affected by TB, and towards zero TB deaths among mine workers in Southern Africa," said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. "We look forward to the signing of the declaration and to continued work with our partners from government, civil society and the private sector to implement a regional solution to an issue that is on a global scale."