SADC Must Work Out On Miners Health Corporate Social Responsibility Health Ministers Say

By  Nevson Mpofu

Dr. David Parirenyatwa
Dr. David Parirenyatwa

Mining is among the three sectors of the Economy. Agriculture and Manufacturing Industry are part of the three. Mining remains saliently a Global threat to human Health. In Africa mineral resource wealth is great in Gross Domestic Product contribution and income per capita .Effects related to mining several minerals take Centre stage.

Occupational health ailments related to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases continue to wreck the life trend of humanity though Health Technology is growing. Silicosis is caused by dust from rocks containing silica .Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium and Tubercle bacilli.

Tuberculosis is an Opportunistic Infection related to HIV and AIDS. In those people diagnosed HIV positive at mining Centers, it exacerbates the Prevalence Rate of some diseases related to mining dust.

To those diagnosed HIV positive, it is advisable according to the new policy to test Tuberculosis according to the Health Testing Services policy. In an exclusive Interview with Pan African Visions, Dr David Parirenyatwa gave a brief:

‘’Our Ministry of-course is responsible for HIV and TB work around the  country .We work on policies and come out with multi-concerted interventions to curb health challenges. We have the Health Testing Policy, TB Policy, HIV and AIDS Policy and the Public Health Act.

‘’As Health Ministers in the SADC region, we are looking at coming up with policies addressing problems at Regional level. Already Zimbabwe has got the Health Testing Services which guides on HIV and Tuberculosis treatment, care and support.

‘’Treatment is better than cure .If one is TB tested, the same with HIV. Treatment is automatic. The two are married to each other. It saves us because we do not worst resources giving treatment to someone who needs sometimes HIV test, counseling and treatment’’, he said.

Mining has brought harm than good. Pneumoconiosis is caused by free crystalline silica containing coal dust. Siderosis is caused by mineral dusts emanating from Iron ore .Stenosis is caused by mineral dusts emanating from Tin –Ore . Aluminosis is caused by mineral dusts emanating from Bauxite .Asbestosis is from mining Asbestos. These make rise of Air borne diseases which increase high death rates in many countries. All of these are preventable .What’s next is , treatment is better than cure .

The Minister of Mines and Mineral Development, Winston Chitando said the Ministry is reaching in many mining communities. They is need to look at what are the real problems.

‘’Despite anything we need to look at our own policies. The Ministry has the HIV and AIDS policy in the Mining Industry which addresses HIV and AIDS at the work place. It looks at how stigma and discrimination can be addressed .It also looks at what companies and workers must do in the adversity of HIV and AIDS, ‘’he said.

Mining net financial returns have over the past years,  a century and quarter years , fortified Economies of several countries. Mineral resource nature has heavily created gross and massive profits. Qualitative research done in the SADC Region is much focusing on Silicosis and Tuberculosis.

Andre Van Zyl a Health Expert with the Health Focus organization based in Johannesburg states that the two diseases are a menace especially in many countries where Mining activities take place. Andre scoffs at Tuberculosis as the main culprit related to HIV and AIDS but he scalds more scum on the adverse effects of Silicosis which is exponentially rising on a daily basis despite multi concerted efforts by SADC to reduce it or eliminate .SADC has helped to craft policies and come with strategies, frameworks and best state of the art, Social Corporate Responsibility to save the Industry.

‘’These are completely new diseases wrecking unbearable havoc. To date a number of workers died in silence, some suspected to be other issues; yet, it was this problem we are in sight of.

‘’ We are training workers in the Region and also encouraging mining companies to support workers by providing working proof clothes , protective clothing  like gum shoes , over-coats and more .

‘’It is very important also to provide free Health Services to workers especially looking at drugs, tests, HIV tests and medical services like Premier Medical Aid Society.

‘’Many organizations are on our side to eliminate at length HIV in the productive sector.’’

‘’The main problem in the Region which needs Social Corporate Responsibility is silicosis .Silicosis is preventable but not curable. Its effects could be devastating in the mining industry where it is mainly causing havoc .Tuberculosis is curable but is an Opportunistic Infection affecting the Mining community .However, this is opening gaps of confusion, since some are taking the two as one.

‘’There is need for regular Mine workers tests, for them to know their status and to stay away from danger and be protected .Therefore , HIV testing kits are very important to keep track with miners HIV status .In mining communities , Community Health workers are important , Information sensitization , awareness and advocacy .

‘’ AIDS no longer exists but HIV lives. USA organizations like PEPFAR, USAID are carrying out FREE HIV TESTS, COUNSELLING and freely those diagnosed get free treatment at zero cost.

‘’At the same time UNDP and PACT have done Social Corporate Responsibility by initiating trainings and technical support at Regional level ,  Said the expert in length.

South Africa has a Code of Practice to manage and measure dust exposure and it has a number of preventable programs which have been put in place and implemented in the Mining community to control spread of silicosis.

Silicosis is caused by rising dust from silica rocks found in Mining areas in many countries.  It is severely dangerous since it affects ALVIOLI which is part of blood vessels. Silica dust when breathed in through oxygen intake, carbon-dioxide is taken out, however the intake of this oxygen is accompanied by intoxicated dust of silica which is like broken glass. .The dust accumulates on the surface of ALVIOLI .This causes a burden on the heart, this leading to difficult breathing. Complications like internal bleeding develop and cause death.

A Tuberculosis expert in the MINISTRY OF HEALTH and CHILD CARE, AIDS and TB DEPARTMENT,  Dr Charles Sandy said TB could be serious in the Mining sector since many mine workers have been diagnosed TB which is seriously linked to HIV and AIDS. This opportunistic Infection needs attention.

‘’Like anyone else, Miners need to go for free TB, simultaneously with HIV Testing. Some mining centers have such facilities and these must be made use of, more provided at the same time.’’

’We must note hat, 60% of TB patients are HIV positive so simultaneous tests must be done. Tuberculosis is treatable, so there must be no problem at all, thus why we recommend patients to use Isoniazid Preventive Therapy, pyrazinamide and Anti-Retroviral simultaneously, if they are diagnosed positive to both.

‘’Those diagnosed can use recommended drugs at the same time. Miners need more caution, thus why there is [DOTS] Directly Observed Treatments, by which those taking drugs must be monitored’ ’said the Doctor.

The Mining sector has the    HIV and AIDS Policy at work place. The policy has helped in the reduction of HIV and AIDS, stigma and discrimination which frustrates HIV positive people to take drugs recommended like those of the Protease Inhibitors and some combinations .Secondly, stigma brings fear in those who want to go for testing, care and counseling.

Social protection must be practiced. The mine safety and health legislation must clearly specify which occupational Lung diseases are a problem .Tuberculosis and Silicosis factors must be separated to reach a conclusion.

SADC countries Legislation should make provision for an ex-worker to have easy access to health facility like to x- rays and Lung function test, trained staff and access to medication .An Expert in the Mining Industry focusing on Occupational Health in Zimbabwe Ishmael Kaguru said though some SADC countries are following up on International Labour Organization codes. These are on Occupational Health and Safety. There is need to foster SADC to work out more on Codes of Practice.

‘’There is need for more focus on Silicosis which is not curable but preventable. Then on TB which is both preventable and treatable. There is need for Programs in Mining communities, to eliminate these through policy implementation .Legislation at Regional level and Regional Integration is vital.’’

‘’Best tried and tested frameworks are like the 2006 SADC TB focus which resulted in the implementation of the TB in Mines Project .The reason was , TB is linked to HIV , so it meant many people had both TB and HIV. There is need for attention and initiation of several interventions to reduce strong effects like the one observed in HIV positive people with Silicosis and TB’’ , he said  ‘’

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