Jackson Sibanda a small scale artisanal miner from Vungu, Village 6 has just been screened for Tuberculosis (TB) at Riversdale Clinic in Vungu, 40 Kilometers away from Gweru. Due to the nature of his job which requires him to move from one place to another in search of the gold, he has little time on his hands and rarely visits a health facility whenever he falls ill.
By Michael Gwarisa in Vungu
However, his friend recently tested positive for TB and he fears he might have contracted it since they worked closely together under a closed environment underground.
Unlike his friend who visited the clinic when his TB symptoms had worsened, Jackson does not want to make that mistake.
I am here today for TB screening,” says Jackson. “I have seen people dying from TB and our job as miners exposes us to high TB risk. My friend was diagnosed with TB and I fear I might have contracted it because this is someone I would spend most of my time with.”
Luckily for Jackson he does not need to travel 40 km to get screened for TB in Gweru because they now have a local health facility in Riversdale. The Clinic was constructed through support from the Government of Japan which provided US$ 145,230 for the construction of these medical facilities. The facilities include a new clinic, a Laboratory, nurse’s house, solar-powered borehole, ablution block and hospital beds, as well as a backup generator and fence around the clinic. The project was completed by the Jointed Hands Welfare Organisation (JHWO).
Before the clinic was constructed, the local authority would offer health services through periodic but erratic mobile services.
“The reason why most artisanal miners died of TB here is because of the distance. Imagine traveling 40 km to Gweru and leaving work behind. As a result, some kept coming to work and the TB worsened. Today, I just woke up and came here on foot because it’s a walk-able distance,” added Jackson.
Riversdale, in Vungu has a population of about 6089 inhabitants and 1635 household. The static clinic offers an array of HIV and Tuberculosis clinical and laboratory services among many services guided by the National AIDS Council (NAC) through a Private Public Partnership.
While Riversdale Clinic offers a number of health services, for artisanal miners it is the TB screening that draws them to the facility the most. The risk Of TB Infection is 18 times higher In Zimbabwe’s Artisanal Miners according to Ministry of Health National TB program data. Zimbabwe is one of the three countries in Southern Africa that has the highest number of artisanal small scale miners with Tanzania leading the pack, followed by Mozambique and then Zimbabwe on third place out of the 15 SADC countries.
Mr Oscar Nyaguse, a Laboratory Scientist with JHWO said artisanal and small scale mining was a hard to reach group in terms of TB screening and treatment but bringing the health center to their doorstep has led to massive behavior change and increased uptake of health services by the miners.
[pullquote]“Through resource mobilization, we managed to secure funds to equip the laboratory and that was through USAID funding through their initiative known as the TB loan. Funding came through the Care and TB project. The main thrust of the project is to support the national TB and Leprosy program under the Ministry of Health to try and identify missed cases of TB,” said Nyaguse.[/pullquote]
Data gathered from a Care and TB program that is being conducted by the Baines Occupational Health Services (BOHS) and other organisations in the national TB response indicate that in 2021, the yield for diagnosed TB within the artisanal small scale miners was 21 percent. TB yield is interpreted as the percentage of contacts screened who were diagnosed with active TB as a result of TB contact investigation activities.
Nyaguse added that the Lab at Riversdale clinic was prioritizing TB diagnosis and the lab operates under the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
“We report to the Gweru district laboratory and Gweru provincial laboratory. Within the district through an agreement with the Ministry of Health, we were allocated Lab facilities that we are currently serving. The lab began operations last year February as more of a pilot study.
“This year, we are hoping to increase the number of facilities to 20 or 25. In addition, NAC also has a number of HIV programs that they are running within the district. We are currently undertaking verification of a Gene Expert analyser that we have so that we can start testing viral loads for the residents of Riverdale and also for the facilities that are currently allocated to us.”
Apart from offering TB services at Riversdale, JHWO also offers transportation of specimen for other tests they do not do at the facility. The specimens are transported to Gweru District laboratory and Gweru provincial laboratory depending on the type of tests that would have been requested. The facility also offers STI screening and Malaria testing.
Peter Dube, the Programs Manager for JHWO said the clinic was offering services even though it was still under construction and will soon be commissioned by the government of Zimbabwe.
“Once fully functional, this facility will see community members accessing free primary healthcare, diagnostics, HIV testing services, TB, Cancer Screening and Family Planning services among others within a walk-able distance, in the process, cutting down on catastrophic costs especially for those in need of resupplies and other services that require the services of a doctor including diagnostics and this will significantly contribute to positive health outcomes and improve on the quality of life as the country delivers on health sustainable goals,” said Dube.
Vungu District is made up of 19 Wards and Riversdale Clinic is in Ward 9. The entire district has a population of 121, 712 according to latest Population and Housing Census of 2022. The population resides in settlements and commercial farming areas. Mining, farming, fishing and irrigation make up the greatest part of socio-economic activities in the district.
Meanwhile, National AIDS Council District AIDS Coordinator (DAC) for Gweru Rural, Sukoluhle Sibanda said apart from being a TB high risk area, Vungu was also an HIV hostpot and the clinic had come to bridge the gap to accessing healthcare services.
“This area had been without a health facility until the time we were blessed with this health facility. People were traveling to Gweru to access health services including HIV services and some were traveling to Conmara Clinic which is quite far.
“Here and there, sex workers go to mining areas in the district doing their business and these have become our hot-spot areas. Even the service and business centers surrounding the area also form part of our HIV hot-spots in the district. We have an HIV prevalence of 13.51 percent and an HIV incidence of 0.32 percent according to the 2021 National HIV estimates which is quite high,” said Sibanda.
One Thought to “JHWO Rural Clinic Accelerates Identification of Missed TB cases in Vungu”
Good work JHWO. This is really the way to go, joining hands with the like to serve the needy.
Thank you to the team and stakeholders. “yes Together we can”