Cough from the earth’s belly
BY THE nature of their jobs artisanal miners (makorokoza) work in dusty environments.
TB is a bacterial disease which thrives in such choking environment. The miners may even work in waterlogged areas and rivers. They even dare work in disused tunnels from closed mines.
The important factor that they need protective clothing which they rarely have is not a hindrance from unravelling the earth. A closer look at the dangerous working environment shows a cry for health interventions to be effected like yesterday. The miners know the dangers involved to lack of protective clothing. The dusty environments, lack of clean drinking water and ablution facilities. However, due to economic challenges they embark on the work not for the faint-hearted at their own peril. The miners known in local language magweja or makorokoza can afford to buy the protective clothing e.g dust musks, overalls and gum boots, only that they have no time to shop around. Someone ought to bring these onto their pit “offices”.
Talking to a miner from Marange, Mutare who only preferred to give his first name Jasper it appeared time was not on his side and that of his pals.
“I have no time to get the protective clothing. If you can bring me gumboots and an overall I can buy at a good price,” said Jasper. Jasper works in an environment with no proper ablution facilities. The dangers of infections from polluted water sources are real. Jasper said toilets were a luxury and could do without. “We are working men who do not care much about a toilet my sister,” said Jasper. Food outlets are makeshift and are a health hazard.
The potential of getting TB in such a workplace is high. The dangers associated with lack of protective clothing is real, hence the pointing out of this pivotal working aspect.
The miners are either in the pits or they are socialising after a day’s hard back breaking work. Socialisation means a head resting on an opposite sex’s shoulder, usually a home away from home. “Our wives are at home, so sisters here give us the required duties of bush wives,” said Jasper.
The industry is a cut throat one where a day away from the “office” is not afforded. Time to get to health centres is deemed a waste. One only seeks attention when they are wasted away and it is too late to be treated and recover. TB and HIV co-infection is high, hence the need to take the sector as a key population. Under aged workers are found among the miners and early sexual debut is rife. Sexually transmitted infections are high. Uptake of condoms does not result in use, hence the rise in sexual infections.
Jasper said many miners die as they default after running out of medication.
“Time is money, many miners fail to travel to collect medication. Some end up sharing tablets. A number of guys have died after defaulting,” said Jasper.
The women who run “pit office kitchens” need to be the champions in condom distribution and be equipped with information to urge these men and women of steel not to default if already on treatment.
The artisanal kind of work is tough and sees retirement as early as 40 years.
Someone has to conscientise the miners on the aspect ‘make hay while the sun still shines’. The notion that: “I will work tomorrow” for more is a losers paradise. Who knows tomorrow, no-one. The “home” away from home issue where part time wives are swapped has dangers in high sexual transmission. The sexual networks are nothing new hence the need to have champions dishing out cooked meals and protection in the form of condoms and awareness.
Information dissemination is valuable.