Malawi miners to benefit from regional TB control programme
By Deborah Manda
Miners in Malawi are to benefit from the Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health Systems Support Project which is aimed at improving coverage and quality of TB control and occupational diseases services.
The five year project which is being funded by the World Bank and Global fund will be implemented in four countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region namely Malawi, Lesotho, Zambia and Mozambique and targeted beneficiaries include both large and small scale miners, ex-miners and their communities.
National TB Control Programme Director, Dr. James Mpunga, said that the project was initiated after countries realised that the risk for miners to contract TB is higher thus at 10 to 15 times compared to the general population.
The SADC member states in 2011 signed a declaration by Heads of States in Maputo to fight TB in the mining sector. World Bank, Global fund and other partners came together to support the project in the four countries and here in Malawi we are very lucky to be included in both streams from World Bank and Global fund,
said Dr. Mpunga.
He explained that the World Bank supported programme has three components which include innovative, diagnosis, treatment and care for the beneficiaries.
In the innovative component, we are looking at case finding because we want the miners and ex-miners to acquire health services as most of the mines do not have the services and if at all they have it is on a small scale. We will link them up to the health system to make sure that they get all the necessary support,
He said the project will also ensure that occupational health and safety standards set out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which recommend that miners are provided with protective gear, are followed by the companies.
In regional capacity in surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of occupational lung diseases, we want personnel who are up to the task. We mean personnel in the Ministry of Health, Labour and Mines to be up to the task,
He said in the area of diagnostic capacity, the project will ensure that health facilities have all equipment such as x-rays so that the miners are screened regularly.
He said the last component of the project is for the region to share knowledge through exchange visits and operational research as well as build centres of excellence so that all the participating countries develop expertise.
Under the project, TB screening centres will be established in each region thus one in Karonga targeting the Songwe border, the second one in Lilongwe and the third in Nsanje.
The project is being implemented by Ministries of Health, Labour, Finance and Natural Resources, Energy and Mining at a cost of US$17 million.
The project is already working with groups of miners and ex-miners.
Mphatso Kapokosa, Mining Engineer at the Department of Mines said their role as Mines Department is to ensure that mining companies adhere to occupational health and safety regulations as defined in the countries’ laws.
Our main aim is that of reducing dust in the mines. Under this project we are procuring safety equipment including dust monitors, equipment for testing and dust masks,
Kapokosa added that for licensed small scale miners it is easy to track them but for illegal miners it is difficult as they are trying to hide from the law.
In Malawi, the project is targeting nine Districts of Karonga, Rumphi, Mzimba, Kasungu, Lilongwe, Balaka, Nsanje, Blantyre and Chiradzulu.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 53 (September 2017).