Malawi Government through the Ministry of Mining has called upon all countries in the SADC region to work together in the fight against Tuberculosis especially in the mining sector.
The Minister of Mining Dr. Albert Mbawala made the call in Lilongwe yesterday during the launch of TB in the Mining sector in Southern Africa (TIMS) phase lll project.
Mbawala asked Governments and partners in the region to work together in fighting this lingering TB crisis which has been made a bit more complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the region has a lot to learn from one another in the fight against not just TB but a lot of other disease control efforts including HIV, Malaria, Covid-19, and Non-Communicable Diseases.
“As SADC region we need to work together to make sure that we fight this disease especially in the mining sector, as we are going towards achieving the target of eliminating TB by 2030.
“This can not only be done if countries in the regional collaborate. TIMS project is looking at coordinating in all the SADC member states. Looking at our borders, we need to put up screening surveillance, put up necessary facilities to make sure we are ready as a country, as well as a region to make sure that immigrants in our borders and also those going in other countries are screened for TB. A lot of cases of TB come from miners or ex miners. So we need to put some effort as a region to deal with this and this TIMS project is actually financing some of these projects in the region that our boarders should be well equipped,” said Mbawala.
The Minister said TB remains one of the world’s greatest killers and the Southern Africa Region is one of the highly burdened regions as several countries in SADC are amongst the 30 countries with the highest burden of TB in the world.
“Miners are at additional risks of getting infected with TB due to the environment they work and live. The mining industry increases this risk of TB spreading around communities and into labour sending countries across borders.
“Migration to and from different regions and across country borders disrupts the continuum of care for miners receiving treatment, jeopardizing their health and that of their families, bringing about another dimension of the TB disease burden. Therefore, we need to put up measures which will help in reducing further spread of TB and also reduce chances of Miners getting infected,” said Mbawala.
Mbawala also noted that the launch of TIMS Phase III comes a month before the commemoration of the World TB Day and the TB response urgently needs to be accelerated to reach the targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals and to realize the commitments made by Heads of State on Ending TB by 2030.
“TIMS Project was born out of the recognition of the need for a regionally coordinated response to the issue of TB and its related illnesses among mineworkers, ex-mineworkers and their families and communities. As a region, we have responded to the call to End TB by endorsing the 2012 SADC Declaration of TB in the Mines Protocol. This is proof of political commitment within the SADC region to fight TB.
“It is possible to register measurable progress through robust multi-sectoral and multi-country partnership, domestic resource allocation for activities, uptake of the global WHO guidelines and recommendations and integrating TB services into other national programs. These are all well captured in the SADC Declaration of TB in the mines Protocol, as member countries we need to accelerate implementation of initiatives that operationalize the Protocol”, said Mbawala.
In his remarks, Deputy Minister of Health Hon. Enock Phale said Malawi Government is committed to strengthening community interventions to reach out to all people that might be at risk of contracting TB.
“In the next four months also with support from the World Bank we got assurance and we also got equipped vehicles that are going to be serving the purpose of cross border screening,” said Phale.
On his part, Mining Association of Southern Africa Executive Secretly, Vusi Mabena said he expects the project to be successful and all countries to actually co-operate in terms of sharing the information, in terms of supporting the NTP program managers who are going to be driving the program.
“We expect the region to have integrated system of data that is needed to understand one thing, what is actually the burden of TB in the region. There have to be strategies put in place to make sure that we eliminate the disease by 2030 and this initiative of regional committee is one of the ways that will help to eliminate the disease,” said Mabena.
TB in the Mining sector (TIMS) phase lll runs between July 2021 and June 2024 and shall be implemented in the 16 Countries in the SADC region.