September 13, 2005

"Catastrophic" Aids death toll among miners, says deputy minister

The level of mortality from HIV among Mozambican miners in South Africa has reached "catastrophic" levels, according to Deputy Labour Minister Soares Nhaca. Interviewed in the independent newsheet "Mediafax", According to Nhaca, there has been a disastrous progression of the epidemic among mineworkers. In the early 1990s, known deaths among Mozambican miners were running at about 100 a year. The figure has now reached 500 a year. "And this is only the official data", he stressed, "which leads us to suspect that the real panorama is even more critical".

Some of the South African mining companies have adopted discriminatory practices towards HIV- positive Mozambicans. When they find a Mozambican miner to be infected, he is repatriated. Miners who suffer this fate die in Mozambique, and are thus not included in the South African figures. According to the migratory labour department in the Labour Ministry, AIDS now dwarfs all other causes of deaths among the miners.

In the period under consideration, 2.525 deaths of Mozambican miners in South Africa were recorded. But only 140 were due to mine collapses and other industrial accidents. The rest were overwhelmingly due to AIDS. The Labour Ministry says it was in permanent contact with the South African employers, discussing with them ways of reducing the spread of HIV. Educational work is under way at the mines, teaching mineworkers how to protect themselves against the disease. But so far these efforts do not seem to have borne much fruit. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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