A study by the World Bank revealed mine workers in South Africa had the highest incidence of TB among all working populations in the world.
In a move to tackle the TB menacing mine workers, the governments of Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa, and Swaziland met with mining industry, union representatives, development partners and other stakeholders, at a ministerial meeting on March 25 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
They discussed a standardised approach to the management of TB in the mining industry across all four countries.
The objective was to discuss and agree on a regional strategy to bring down the TB rate among mine workers, currently at 10 times the level that the WHO classifies as an emergency.
The World Bank reported the disease disproportionately affected cross-border migrant workers, and therefore could not be tackled by any country alone.
The WB also said miners’ exposure to numerous risk factors as a result of their jobs, living conditions and migrant lifestyles increase the likelihood of contracting TB.
Prolonged exposure to silica dust in poorly ventilated mine shafts can cause silicosis, which increases the risk of pulmonary TB.
High rates of HIV also increase the chance of TB infection, said the World Bank.
Treating the disease among miners is also difficult due to regular migration, as treatment must be taken uninterruptedly and to avoid developing multi-drug resistant TB.