AN artisanal miner on the sides of Mirerani hills in Simanjiro District is at a higher risk of contracting TB than any other miner in the country, it has been established.
According to a recent study conducted by the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children and Kibong'oto Infectious Disease Hospital (KIDH), artisanal miners engaging in the exploration of Tanzanite are more likely to acquire the infectious disease usually caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria from graphite dust.
Speaking to this paper on the sidelines of a fiveday national TB and leprosy programme (NTLP) annual meeting on Monday, NTLP coordinator in charge of the private sector, Dr Allan Tarimo, admitted that the miners were more prone to the disease transmitted by air due to the presence graphite dust in mines.
"It will not take artisanal miners more than two years before contracting TB, which is associated with the thickness of graphite which also causes respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases," noted Dr Tarimo.
He further said inhalation of graphite dust could cause lung disease, mostly in form of mixed-dust pneumoconiosis in individuals working in graphite mines.
According to the TB expert, out of the 75,000 patients diagnosed with the killer disease last year, 1,500 of them were from the mining sector.
Much as the country's mining sector was hit by TB due to workers' exposure to graphite and other forms of dust, the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children has embarked on public awareness of the killer disease and provides TB experts to test artisanal miners.
Currently, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Tanzania, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, is supporting the implementation of the 2012 Southern African Development Community Declaration on TB in the Mining Sector (SADCD).
The SADCD affirms the member states' commitment to eliminating TB and improving practices related to health and safety in the mining sector.
Opening a meeting, the chief medical officer, Prof Muhammad Kambi, outlined strategies of ending TB and leprosy in the country.
Strategies include the supply and distribution of health experts to all districts and regional health facilities in the country.
"We also look into ways of making TB and leprosy drugs freely available to patients," he told participants in the meeting which also included regional and district medical officers.
National TB and Leprosy Control Programme Manager, Dr Beatrice Mutayoba, said Tanzania had 142,000 TB patients last year.
According to Dr Mutayoba, the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children is determined to reduce TB cases by 20 per cent by next year.
However, 16 district councils in the country still lag behind in the fight against the killer disease.
Among other things, the National Strategic Plan (2015-2020) for TB and leprosy focuses on increasing TB case detection by 29 per cent by 2020 by strengthening routine case notification and addressing vulnerable groups of the elderly, prisoners, miners and diabetics.
It also seeks to reduce new leprosy cases with disability grade 2 from 0.7 to 0.3 per 100,000 populations by 2020 by enhancing early case finding and treatment of leprosy patients.