One of the proudest achievements of the major mines in Zambia is how they have brought malaria under control in their neighbouring communities, and partnered with government in its National Malaria Control Programme.
There are far fewer cases of malaria in mining towns and districts than in the rest of the provinces where the mines operate. On the Copperbelt, for example, the incidence rate of malaria has plummeted by more than 90% over the past 15 years.
Malaria is one of the most lethal diseases in Zambia, and killed more than 3 000 people in 2014, according to figures by the World Health Organisation.
The anti-malaria programmes run by mines such as Mopani and Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) on the Copperbelt, and First Quantum Minerals (FQM) and Barrick Lumwana in North-Western province, have been so successful that they have been replicated by the government in its own National Malaria Control Programme.
As a result of this partnership, around half of the districts in Zambia are implementing the national programme; and the anti-malaria initiatives of the mines are aligned with this programme. This allows for a more integrated and coordinated approach to implementation, monitoring and data collection.
“The mines’ initiatives are built around a handful of basic, yet effective measures”
The mines’ anti-malaria initiatives are largely preventative, and are built around a handful of basic, yet effective, measures. Indoor Residual Spraying is carried out in tens of thousands of households (most of them non-mine employees) within a radius of about 10 km of the mine. Potential mosquito breeding sites, such as drainages, are cleared and cleaned. Mosquito nets treated with insecticide are donated to households in the catchment areas. And treatment is provided for those who are infected by the disease.
When KCM started its Rollback Malaria programme in 2000, the company did a survey which showed that malaria was not only affecting its own employees, thereby reducing productivity, but also their dependents and others in the community around the mine. Since the introduction of the programme, reported malaria cases have dropped from 113 per 1 000 employees and their dependents to less than 10. Deaths went from four per 1 000 every year to zero.
Mopani’s anti-malaria programme has reaped equally impressive results over the years. The incidence rate in the catchment area around the mine has fallen from 216 per 1 000 people in 2001 to less than 15 in 2014. This has resulted in a significant drop in hospital admissions, and less expenditure on malaria treatment.