JOHANNESBURG — The Lesotho National Tuberculosis Programme has called for closer cooperation with the South African government to combat Tuberculosis (TB) among current and former mine workers in the two countries.
Llang Maama, who is the head of the programme, was speaking at a one-day Stop TB Partnership workshop in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
Maama said it had been a challenge to track miners and former miners who were suffering from TB to evaluate their health status because of lack of records.
“We have an assignment to establish a system to exchange patients. We have not been able follow up on the progress for TB patients because we do not know where to find them,” Maama said.
“As a result there is a poor treatment outcome, low cure rates, high defaulters and failure to evaluate many patients.”
Maama said South Africa and Lesotho must revise and sign a labour agreement to deal with the crisis.
The agreement would facilitate the establishment of a Chamber of Mines in Lesotho to monitor miners and ex-miners.
“We should also strengthen the ex-miners’ association so that they can assist in tracking former mine workers, build capacity of others for outreach activities and set up coordinating offices in the districts,” Maama said.
She added that there is need to establish a single and simple cross border referral system for TB and HIV specific migrant workers to manage disease-related cross border issues.
“This will help to monitor the number of miners returning home to ensure that all TB cases are reported to the Ministry of Health.”
Maama said it was important that potential mine workers register with recruiting agencies to ensure they get compensated in the event of illness.
“In that way all miners will be aware of their entitlement to compensation,” she said.
Migration to South African mines has been shown to perpetuate the TB epidemic in Lesotho.
About 30 percent of all multi drug-resistant cases detected in Lesotho were from miners and ex-miners from South Africa.
Lesotho has the fourth highest TB incidence rate in the world and the disease is responsible for 15 percent of all the deaths in the country, according to a 2010 report on the state of TB in the South African Development Community region.
The report said at least 25 percent of the drug-resistant TB cases in Lesotho since August 2007 were from people who had worked in South African mines.