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Health Ministry hosts workshop on TB in mines

Health Ministry hosts workshop on TB in mines

The Ministry of Health and Social Services, in collaboration with the East, Central, and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC), hosted a workshop on Monday to develop a country implementation framework for Standard Operating Procedures on Mine Health and Safety on Tuberculosis (TB) in the mining sector.

Health Executive Director,  Ben Nangombe said that TB is a serious public health challenge in the SADC mining sector, affecting not just the infected individuals and their families, but also the broader community.

He remarked that the disease remains a burden in Namibia, particularly among People Living with HIV. The World Health Organisation ranked Namibia as the 9th highest TB incidence rate in the world in 2022, with a rate of 460 per 100,000 population.

Although TB is preventable and curable, an estimated 10.6 million individuals, including 1.2 million children, fell ill with the disease in 2021, with an estimated 1.6 million deaths worldwide, according to Nangombe.

“The most common risk factor is HIV infection followed by malnourishment, excessive intake of alcohol; smoking, and Diabetes Mellitus. One group at exceptionally high is the mineral mining industry. Working conditions inside mines create a high-risk environment for TB transmission, resulting from confined and poorly ventilated environments conducive to transmission,” Nangombe said, noting that the TB incidence among miners is estimated to be as much as ten times higher than in the populations from which they originate.

As a result, prioritization of TB services in mining areas is critical, he added.

According to a 2021 Namibian survey of TB patients, around 82% of households endure financial hardship due to the disease’s accompanying costs, even though TB diagnostics and treatment are free in the public health sector. “The main cost drivers are non-medical expenditures such as travel, nutritional supplements, food, and time/income loss,” the survey findings indicated.

“This workshop created awareness and understanding of the Mine Health and Safety procedures for their implementation at the country level. Moreover, I’m hopeful that this workshop will provide a platform for fruitful discussions and that the outcomes will inform the adaptation and adoption of the four generic SOPs to address TB and other occupational diseases that have burdened the mining sector for decades,” he said. “To be effective, the Standard Operating Procedures adopted in this workshop should be integrated into the ministry’s frameworks as well as those of relevant Offices, Ministries and Agencies of Government, and partner organizations.”

Nangombe stated that the Health Ministry established an occupational health subdivision that collaborates closely with the Ministries of Labour, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation, as well as Mines and Energy to strengthen Namibia’s response to combatting occupational diseases such as TB.



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