Malawi calls for accelerated TB response in Southern African countries

The Malawi Government has called upon African countries to accelerate tuberculosis (TB) response if the continent is to attain targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to realize the commitments made by Heads of State on Ending TB by 2030.

Malawi’s Minister of Mining Albert Mbawala made the call in Lilongwe at the launch of the third phase of the Tuberculosis in the Mining Sector in Southern African Project (TIMS).

Mbawala said TB remains one of the world’s greatest killers, and the Southern Africa region is one of the highly burden region globally.

Mbawala–TB remains one of the world’s greatest killers, and the Southern Africa region is one of the highly burden region globally—Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times.

The minister added that several countries in SADC are amongst the 30 countries with the highest burden of TB in the world.

“A third of TB infections in Southern Africa are linked to mining activities. Miners are at an additional risk 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,” he said.

The minister said the launch of TIMS Phase III has come at an opportune time as governments begin the year 2022 and exactly a month before the commemoration of the World TB Day.

A cross-section of the delegates to the TIMS III Project launch in Lilongwe–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

Mbawala stated that TIMS Project was borne 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.

He said as a region, governments have responded to the call to End TB by endorsing the 2012 SADC Declaration of TB in the Mines Protocol, which proves political commitment within the SADC region to fight TB.

“The commitment by our political leaders has catalysed regional TB response in the mining sector, including the development of specific initiatives such as this TIMS Project. This commitment continues, as I look at this room full of delegates from all parts of SADC (and those joining us virtually due to the current COVID situation), here today, to witness the launch of yet another phase of the TIMS Project.

“Indeed, there has been significant progress made in the fight to end TB within the region and perhaps it is worth mentioning the efforts made by the various SADC countries on this. Between 2015 and 2019 Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania were reported as having reduced the number of TB deaths by 30 percent,” he narrated.

Mbawala further observed that while Namibia, South Africa, Malawi and United Republic of Tanzania also reported a reduction in the number of new TB cases by at least 20 percent.

However, the minister said Covid-19 poses a new challenge towards fighting to end TB.

“Today I call upon our Governments and partners to work together in fighting this lingering TB crisis which has been made a bit more complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our 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 I conclude, I would like to applaud the Global Fund for providing the funding to continue the fight against TB in the mining sector,” emphasized Mbawala.

Chairperson of the Regional Coordinating Members (RCM), Vusi Mabena, observed that in the second phase of the project, there was limited coordination of TB programmes between donors, country programs and TIMS.

Mabena added that were limitations in the adoption of catalytic interventions at country level.

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