The World Bank says tuberculosis (TB) in the mining sector in Southern Africa has reached crisis proportions and needs all relevant stakeholders to work together. According to a SABC News report, it says it has put aside over R1.6bn to assist different governments in the region, address this pandemic. The bank maintains that the current infection rate is at 10 times the level classified as an emergency.
The report says TB is a disease that has ravaged mine workers for over 100 years. Although there has been a reduction in the number of those infected, it is not significant. The World Bank says the number of TB patients and those at the risk of contracting it in the mining sector is growing at an alarming rate.
Dr Patrick Osewe, global health leader at the World Bank says, “The World Bank has set aside $120m and our global partners have also set aside $20m to support different governments. We will start with Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa.” About 500,000 mine workers in South Africa and about 2m ex-mineworkers across four neighbouring countries are at a risk.
Osewe says in the report it is also important to track compliance of treatment among those that are infected. “The tracking is extremely important because you need to know who is on treatment to ensure that they are successfully treated. If you can’t track them then you end up with multi drug resistant TB that then becomes a societal challenge. So there are a lot of discussions with governments, with the private sector companies, and with mining companies.”
The report says these issues will also be discussed next month at the 46th union world conference on lung health where Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, will share information on some of the initiatives South Africa has come up with to tackle some of the complexities around this matter.
Global health experts, including Motsoaledi, have launched a plan to end TB. The Times reports that the plan requires $56bn for five years, starting from next year. Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership, said domestic funding provided about $7bn of the $11bn needed worldwide each year, but even with donor funding there would be a shortfall of $2.5bn a year.
To end TB the plan needs 90% of people with the disease treated, and a 90% cure rate. South Africa’s cure rate is currently about 75%.
The plan states that: “Of the nearly 10m individuals who get sick with TB each year, 4m people are consistently missed by health systems. They do not receive effective treatment and can infect up to 15 other people per year. “Finding and treating all of them is essential if we are to bring about the unprecedented rate of decline in TB that has not been seen since World War2, but will be necessary to end the disease.”
New antibiotics are needed to fight multidrug-resistant TB, which is now known as “airborne cancer” and what is also needed is a vaccine and better diagnostic systems. Ditiu is quoted in the report as saying: “With current financing and knowledge we won’t have a vaccine until 2025.”
The plan singled out Motsoaledi for his role in tackling TB, the report said. Ditiu said South Africa was one of the few countries that funded its treatment with its own resources. “Your health minister is putting TB very high on the agenda.”