Swazi health minister says new partnerships required to achieve zero TB deaths in the mining sector

8 June 2012 - Geneva - Benedict Xaba, Minister of Health of Swaziland, has said that new partnerships must be formed in order to achieve the goals set out in a forthcoming declaration on TB and Mining in Southern Africa.

Speaking at a recent event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva, Minister Xaba began his call to action with a moving account of his personal experience with TB and Mining.

"I am talking to you today not only as a member of the Stop TB Partnership Board, but also as the son of a mine worker," he said. "Because of TB associated with mining, I lost not only two of my own brothers but also two of my neighbours. This is painful. These people are supposed to be here."

Minister Xaba said that TB among miners and their families must be stopped. "It is unacceptable that anyone should die of TB when TB is preventable and curable," he said. "If we are going to achieve zero deaths from TB, we need to build new partnerships.

"So I am calling on governments, development partners, CEOs of mining companies and civil society to rally to this issue, to find and extend new and innovative ways to roll out diagnosis and treatment to those who so desperately need it'.

Minister Xaba, along with fellow Stop TB Partnership Board Members Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng, health ministers of South Africa and Lesotho respectively, has been a driving force behind efforts to tackle TB in the mining industry.

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. The declaration in now due for signature by SADC heads of State in Maputo, Mozambique, in August.

Yogan Pillay, South Africa’s Deputy Director-General for HIV and AIDS, TB and MCH joined Minister Xaba in calling for concrete action following the declaration. He said that TB and HIV infection rates were too high in South Africa’s mines and that the South African government is busy working closely with other SADC countries on a solution that involves all stakeholders.

"TB and mining is not only a health issue, responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, but also an social and economic issue, reducing productivity and generating millions of dollars in costs for both healthcare systems and mining companies," said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. "I would like to thank the Canadian Ambassador for convening this event and for the extraordinary leadership that Canada has shown in tackling TB globally. In addition, I am very pleased to see that so many partners are coming together to address the issue of TB and mining. At the Stop TB Partnership we will continue to support further partnerships that include mining companies, governments, civil society and affected communities."