IOM’s third edition of a holiday health campaign, targeting migrant mine workers returning home to Mozambique’s Gaza Province for the holiday period, ended yesterday (05/01).
The campaign which began on 19 December 2016, saw over 5,200 migrant workers and their families participate. Since they began in 2015, the health campaigns have encouraged over 10,370 migrants and their families to be screened for HIV/AIDS and TB.
For the past century, thousands of men have been leaving their homes in the southern Mozambique province of Gaza to seek employment in South Africa’s mines. Often, several generations of the same family would become migrant mine workers, spending months on end in South Africa and returning home only for the Christmas and Easter holidays.
Mining has long been associated with various lung diseases, including TB. Miners work long hours in confined, humid and poorly ventilated conditions, which further increases the risk of TB. In addition, prevalence of HIV/TB co-infection among mine workers in South Africa is one of highest in the world, which calls for the need to implement awareness-raising and prevention campaigns among both migrant mine workers and their communities of origin.
Gaza Province is known to send the largest number of migrant mine workers to South African mines, and the three partners of the campaign – Chicumbane Hospital, the Association of Traditional Healers (AMETRAMO), and the Employment Bureau for Africa (TEBA) – provided a TB screening service, HIV voluntary counselling and testing, family planning information, and legal counselling on possible compensation to workers who contracted TB as a result of working in mines, among other services.
“The campaign held at the TEBA office has been very positive as it helps mine workers, coming initially to access other TEBA services, to receive information on health and social protection services that they would otherwise not have easy access to,” said Fortunato Zacarias, TEBA Senior Coordinator in Mozambique. “This has given mine workers and their families a good opportunity to be more informed about infectious diseases and be more conscious of their own health. Many take this occasion to do the screening for HIV/AIDS and TB,” he added.
“In addition to direct outputs from our screening services, our campaign has also helped improve communication on delicate health matters between couples, as sometimes mine workers are already aware they are infected with HIV/AIDS or TB but cannot find ways to bring up the subject at home,” said Linda Magaia, IOM Mozambique. “Through our campaign, mine workers have the opportunity to bring their spouses to do the screening/testing together and seek treatment, for one or both of them if necessary,” she added.
Apart from health services, the latest campaign includes childbirth registration services of 5- to 8-year-olds, as many children remain unregistered for years until their fathers return from the mines for the holiday seasons and only then have them registered. At this age, parents have a very limited window for registration and, if they miss it, their children could lose a whole school year as unregistered children cannot be enrolled for school.
IOM has been partnering with the Provincial Health Directorate of Gaza since the first editions of the campaign, and this year included new public and private partnerships, such as the Provincial Justice Directorate, the Provincial Labour Directorate, and TEBA, the mine labour force recruitment company based in South Africa, with a branch in Mozambique.
“Right now, IOM is the only organization working during these holiday periods to reach the mine workers,” said Alice Sitoe, Head of the Department of Public Health Education at Provincial Health Directorate of Gaza Province, in an interview with TVM, a national broadcast TV station.
“The ‘Healthy Holiday’ Campaigns have been reaching a larger audience and improving services provided that are not primarily health-related but may affect it, such as nutrition, education and community engagement,” said Albino Antonio, the TB Control Programme Coordinator in Gaza. “There is a need to include nutrition and other basic services, such as the measurement of the brachial perimeter, and more involvement of traditional healers,” he added.
The next holiday campaign is scheduled to take place during the Easter holidays, when mine workers are expected to return home once again to visit their families. Each campaign reflects improvements and additions from the needs perceived in previous editions and aims to bring a more holistic approach to the services provided to migrant workers, their families and communities.