JOHANNESBURG, March 25, 2014 - The governments of Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland today signed a framework for the harmonized management of tuberculosis in the mining sector in a move that will help to track, refer and treat infected miners in a standardized manner across these countries.
Held in Johannesburg, this landmark ministerial meeting on Harmonizing the Response to TB in the Mining Sector was convened by the government of South Africa, led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and supported by the World Bank, the Stop TB Partnership, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, with mining companies and trade union representatives also in attendance.
“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 Organisation to help us bring the issue to all countries in the region to organise this meeting and work on clear outcomes,” said Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, South African Minister of Health and Chairperson of the Stop TB Partnership.
Miners in Southern Africa have a greater incident of TB than any other working population with the incident rate of 2,500 - 3,000 per 100, 000 individual are three times more at risk of contracting TB than the general population.
The TB incidence rate among mineworkers is ten times higher than the level of a health emergency as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Regular migration movements of mineworkers throughout the continent and other rural areas of South Africa makes it difficult to provide effective and consistent treatment of TB among these workers and ex-workers.
Today’s meeting takes forward the SADC Declaration on the harmonization of TB management in the mining sector signed by Heads of State in August 2012.
By adopting this framework, the ministers affirmed their commitment to work together to tackle tuberculosis in the mining sector.
This framework aims to give mineworkers and their communities the confidence that wherever they seek treatment in the sub-region, their physicians will prescribe the same interventions and will follow the same set of guidelines for disease management.
The meeting recognised this agreement as an important step in redressing some of the injustices endured by mineworkers and their communities over the past century and more.
The Global Fund committed US$100 million, towards the fight against TB in the mines.
“The World Bank Group stands ready to help in the implementation of Southern Africa comprehensive approach to tackling TB in the mining sector and ending this scourge which only entrenches poverty and inequality in affected countries,” said Asad Alam, World Bank Country Director in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Ministers from Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed a declaration of intent on dealing with TB in the mining sector pending further consultation with their respective countries.
The meeting hailed the adoption of the framework as a triumph for the national TB control programs of Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland who have overcome social, cultural, economic and language barriers to work together with partners to achieve a common goal.