A meeting between representatives from the private sector, government, civil society and associations of miners and ex-miners took place in South Africa on Wednesday to identify significant interventions for further investment in occupational and public care.
Representatives believe that miners’ health in Southern Africa can be improved through smart investments in initiatives aimed at tackling occupational diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and silicosis.
The meeting was held under the theme Smart Investments in Health: Mining as a Catalyst for Building Sustainable Communities.
According to a press release issued by the World Bank, studies in ten countries in the Southern African Development Community revealed that many countries did not have strong regulations or institutions to address the effects that mining had on the health of miners and mining communities.
Many workers in artisanal and small-scale mines have limited access to occupational health services and mining communities are faced with risks such as TB, HIV infection and air and water pollution.
World Bank country director Paul Noumba Um said that to address the TB in mines problem required coordinated and multi-country approaches and partnerships.
“Various regional initiatives have been undertaken to fight this scourge in Southern Africa and today we are calling on partners to do more,” he said.
South Africa has about 500 000 mineworkers with about 2 500 to 3 000 diagnosed TB cases per 100 000 mineworkers in gold mines, which is about ten times the World Health Organisation threshold for an emergency.
About 70% of the occupation’s TB cases are undetected.
Stop TB Partnership Secretariat deputy executive director Suvanand Sahu said that only now were we seeing action being taken to address TB in mining-affected populations in the region.
While it was the beginning of a paradigm shift, it needed to be sustained and scaled-up for impact.
Global Fund grant programme TB in the Mining Sector in Southern Africa's Regional Coordinating Mechanism chairperson, Donald Denis Tobaiwa, said that the implementation of programmes needed significant resources and to mobilise investment from partners, including the private sector.
Some of the models for investing in occupational and public health being considered are community development trusts, social labour plans and corporate social responsibility.
Global Fund grant management head Mark Edington said that there was a role for the private sector to provide financial resources in the scaling up of existing initiatives, such as the expansion of occupational TB services to key affected populations.
“The experience of the Global Fund has shown successful outcomes when partnering with the private sector to fight Aids, TB and malaria in other regions,” he said.