The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has announced a $30 million grant to a Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RCM) representing ten countries in southern Africa to pioneer innovative models aimed at reducing high rates of tuberculosis in the mining sector.
With the World Bank Group serving as secretariat and Wits Health Consortium as the principal grant recipient, the RCM will work with ministries of health, mining companies, mineworkers' associations, labor unions, development agencies, and research institutions in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to end the TB epidemic among mineworkers.
In South Africa alone, TB rates within the gold mining workforce are estimated at between twenty-five hundred and three thousand cases per hundred thousand — ten times higher than the World Health Organization's threshold for a health emergency and up to three times the rate for the general population. Factors that contribute to the high incidence of TB among mineworkers include prolonged exposure to silica dust, poor living conditions, high HIV prevalence, poverty, and a poor cross-border health referral system.
"TB is not only a disease of poverty, but it also creates poverty and is a threat to global health security," said Patrick Osewe, lead health specialist for World Bank Health, Nutrition and Population Practice. "Our goal in southern Africa is therefore to achieve our twin goals through a targeted focus on addressing the drivers of TB in the mining sector."