The “Worst Public Health Epidemic We’re Facing Today”? Tuberculosis in the Mining Sector

Monday, June 24, 2013

Despite being both preventable and curable, tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the most serious health problems facing sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 2.3 million people in Africa contracted the disease in 2011, and some 220,000 died from it. The disease represents a major health crisis, is a heavy drain on public resources, and, especially as drug resistant strains become increasingly prevalent, is today an ever more urgent challenge.

TB is an archetypal “disease of poverty”. It has been all but eradicated in the developed world yet remains a real threat particularly amongst those suffering from malnutrition or HIV/AIDS, and in areas where public goods such as access to healthcare are limited.

Eradicating the disease in sub-Saharan Africa will therefore require concerted and multi-faceted efforts on a number of fronts – one of which is the mining sector.

Mining, migration and tuberculosis

TB interventions and discussions have typically focussed on issues such as healthcare, malnutrition and HIV/AIDS, however recently the role played by the mining industry has gained increased attention.

According to research, an estimated 760,000 new cases of tuberculosis in 2011 were related to South Africa’s mining sector – that’s a third of all new cases in Africa that year and a staggering 9% of all new cases worldwide.

Source: Think Africa Press (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases, mining, public health