By Martin Musunka
Barrick Gold Corporation and First Quantum Minerals (FQM) joint community health interventions have impacted households in Solwezi and Kalumbila.
The mining giants have structured strong public health programmes which have resulted in local communities becoming the default providers of health care services.
The two companies commemorated the first national Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Day under Kalumbila district at Lumwana East Primary school where representatives chorused identical mandates for host communities, especially in health care programmes.
In line with their all-weather engagement with communities in close proximity to the mines, Barrick Lumwana Mining Company and FQM Kalumbila assembled clinical tents that were used for testing for HIV, diabetes, blood pressure and lessons on how to correctly use the condom.
Representing FQM, Marjory Fwoloshi, who is a Health Promotions Officer at Kalumbila Minerals Limited, said the mining company believes in “health being wealth.” As such the company offers all health services to employees, contractors and communities around the mine.
“We believe in health being wealth and we offer all forms of health interventions at no cost at all. We have a rich public health programme that has been established to not only to deal with the mine employees, but we go out to the communities to make a difference in ensuring that we sensitise them on matters of health,” Ms Fwoloshi said.
It was indeed an effective platform where the two mining companies, including Government and the traditional leadership disseminated effective messages to the people of the newly-created Kalumbila district.
Nathan Chishimba, the Senior Corporate Affairs Manager for Lumwana Mining Company said the firm attached great value to commemorative events such as the VCT Day because of the worth they added to the well-being and social development of local communities in which they live and work. He said the commemoration was in line with the Zambian Government’s commitment to meeting the 90-90-90 global targets for ensuring that by 2020 about 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 90 percent of people who know their status are receiving treatment and 90 percent of those on HIV treatment have a suppressed viral load. “Thus Lumwana Mining Company attaches great importance to this occasion and is manifested through the support being provided to the local Lumwana Community AIDS Taskforce and its counsellors to undertake VCT services in the three chiefdoms of Mukumbi, Mumena and Matebo,” Mr Chishimba said.
Lumwana Mine has an interest in the reduction of the impact of HIV/AIDS and has therefore placed great importance on spreading messages on the scourge to the wider Lumwana community of Kalumbila district.
“VCT is a critical entry point to both HIV prevention and treatment as it ensures that a person knows their status and able to adapt their behaviour accordingly by improving their prevention behaviour and accessing appropriate treatment,” he said.
Lumwana Mining Company is actively supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS in Kalumbila until the 90-90-90 targets are achieved.
North-Western Province AIDS Taskforce Chairperson, Chief Mumena of the Kaonde-speaking people in Kalumbila district, said he was saddened that the provincial prevalence rate has increased from 6.9 percent to 7.2 percent as opposed to the reduced national figures. “This is a red flag that we are likely to lose the fight, as a province, if we do not seriously reflect and put in place actions to address what is driving the new infections,” he said.
Chief Mumena, speaking through Provincial AIDS Coordinating Advisor, Brian Sweta, said reaching 90-90-90 targets by 2020 would only be possible if new strategies and serious commitments were made by strengthening the coordination and management functions at national, provincial, district and community levels which have previously been poorly resourced.
He said the PATF, District AIDS Task Forces (DATFs) and Community AIDS Task Forces (CADFs) needed financial and material support to operate efficiently, as expected. The chief called for sustained efforts in looking for resources and called for national-level mobilisation.