Southern African countries commit to address TB in the mining sector

26 March 2014 - In a unique event that took place on 25 March in Johannesburg, South Africa, high level representatives from Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Namibia agreed to go towards a regional harmonization approach in addressing tuberculosis in mining. This implies going forward in having common systems for tracking and tracing patients through common referral procedures and common databases applying the same treatment regimens and protocols, and ensuring that communities and families of miners with TB are screened and subsequently rolled-out.

This TB and mining initiative started with discussions at the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board which subsequently evolved towards a platform strongly supported by the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB & Malaria, along with other partners such as WHO and the IOM.

Officiating the event, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, South African Minister of Health and Chairperson of the Stop TB Partnership said, "In the whole region we share labor, we share communities, and we share labor-sending areas. But we haven’t had a clear program for how to work together. That is why we brought the issue to the Stop TB Partnership, the World Bank and the World Health Organization to help us bring the issue to all countries in the region to organize this meeting and work on clear outcomes."

As outlined in the session hosted by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in the presence of Ministers of Health, Ministers of Finance, Ministers of Labour and Minsters of Mineral Resources from the entire SADC region, and together with CEOs of mining companies, ex-miner organizations and miners along with development partners, donors and civil society – miners in Southern African countries have a greater incidence of TB with infection rates estimated to range between 2500 and 3000 per 100,000 mineworkers.

The World Bank presented an economic analysis in which it clearly outlined that by investing 1 South African Rand in TB and mining interventions, you will get a return of 23 South African Rand. This implies that the benefits to society of this investment is truly unprecedented.

Present at the meeting, Dr Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, commended these countries for taking the initiative to come together through the Global Fund regional approach to support funding in the implementation of this project, while calling for accelerated action for greater impact. In a follow-up meeting today, Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership along with Mr Patrick Osewe, Lead Health Specialist for Southern Africa at the World Bank, led a regional consultation in order to have a roadmap for practical implementation of this decision.