Tackling health inequality on World Health Day

posted: 07/04/2021

Today (7 April) is World Health Day which this year highlights the theme of ‘building a fairer, healthier world’ and supporting equitable access to health services and the Covid-19 vaccines.

The World Health Organization, which sponsors the event, points to Covid-19 as having starkly demonstrated the inequality of health care with its impact ‘harshest on those communities which were already vulnerable, who are more exposed to the disease, less likely to have access to quality health care services and more likely to experience adverse consequences as a result of measures implemented to contain the pandemic.’

At Glencore we recognise that inequality, with many of the areas in which we operate close to communities that are vulnerable and lacking the necessary health services – something that has been brought into sharp relief during the pandemic.

With the Values of safety and responsibility at the heart of our culture and the way we do business, we take a look below at how, all across the world, our operations and offices have been helping to tackle health inequality.

Helping remote communities in the Northern Cape

During the pandemic, Glencore Alloys in South Africa has supported Re-Action!, a social purpose enterprise, and its food support programme for the Khomani San Community of the Mier Local Municipality, donating R80,000 to be used to buy essential goods.

Located in one of the most desolate areas of the Northern Cape, near the huge Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the municipality has a population of just 7,000 people. Many are poor and unemployed, and live far away from the services they need.

Re-Action! has been working on health projects in the Mier municipality for many years, running a mobile clinic and community outreach programme to help residents access primary healthcare, and to test and treat HIV, Aids and TB. Through these projects they have built strong relationships of trust and respect with the communities in the Mier municipality and have a good understanding of their needs.

“The Khomani San Crafter families rely solely on social security grants and selling their arts and crafts to tourists visiting the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park,” says Conroy van der Westhuizen, Chief Corporate and Social Responsibility Officer. “With the absence of tourism as a result of the pandemic, the families are battling to make ends meet and are in desperate need of assistance”.

Preventing infections, strengthening health care

During the pandemic, Peru has suffered one of the highest excess death rates in the world, due in part to the country’s weak health system.

In response, our Antapaccay copper mine in the Espinar province, has invested over $1.6m in the region. This has gone towards helping prevent the spread of the virus, strengthening the public health system, helping vulnerable members of the community and aiding economic recovery.

Antapaccay has funded a medicinal oxygen plant for the Espinar hospital which supplies oxygen to all the local health care providers, and has donated hospital beds, volumetric infusion pumps, specially modified stretchers, mechanical ventilators, PPE and other supplies. It has also distributed over 15,500 food baskets to vulnerable families, as well as rolling out disinfection campaigns to prevent new infections.

Daniel Quispe, the president of the local Chelque community, expressed his gratitude for these disinfection initiatives. “Prevention is very important, so handwashing and wearing a mask are now being complemented with the disinfection of our communal premises. By doing so, it will help stop children, grandparents and the entire population from being infected,” he said.

Kazzinc funds PCR test laboratory for community

As the largest mining and metallurgical company in the Ust-Kamenogorsk region of Kazakhstan, Kazzinc acknowledges its responsibility to the local community, more so than ever during the Covid-19 crisis.

In November last year, thanks to a donation by Kazzinc, a fully equipped test laboratory was opened in the region’s medical centre which has enabled it to perform PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing for Covid-19. The new laboratory will considerably reduce the burden on other PCR test labs in Ust-Kamenogorsk and will expedite testing for the virus in the local community.

Other health initiatives from Kazzinc in response to the pandemic include the purchase of pulmonary equipment for the Ridder municipal hospital, 125 oxygen concentrators for other hospitals in the region, and food, televisions and water coolers for the use of medical staff on the frontline.

Faster test results for remote communities

As with all our businesses around the world, in Australia our key priority has been, and continues to be, protecting the health and safety of all employees and contractors at each of our sites and offices, as well as the local communities in which we operate. 

Stakeholder engagement has therefore been a focus and throughout the pandemic we have engaged with our key stakeholders to help ensure economic activity can continue while implementing measures to minimise the spread of the virus.

The Glencore Covid-19 Community Support Fund has contributed AUD $725,000 towards the University of Queensland’s vaccine development program and provided AUD $45,000 for Covid-19 testing equipment at Mount Isa Hospital.

This hospital donation will enable local testing and dramatically reduce the timeframe for test results. Previously, samples had to be flown from Mount Isa to Brisbane or Townsville for analysis, but with reductions in flights to the region, a lag in receiving results identified the need for on-site Covid-19 test analysis equipment. The new equipment means results can be obtained within three hours, compared with up to three and a half days previously. This is especially critical for the rural and remote areas inhabited by vulnerable communities.

Miners’ mobile PCR laboratory alleviates stress on Provincial system

Meanwhile in Canada, we have partnered with Vale and secured services from a regional health provider to set up and manage a Covid-19 PCR mobile testing lab in Sudbury, Ontario, close to our Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations.

The mobile lab allows us to provide Covid-19 PCR testing to employees and their immediate family members within the same household. It also provides rapid access to testing for those who may require testing but are asymptomatic, and hence are not eligible to be tested through Public Health, including contractors coming to site.

It presents an opportunity to minimise the potential virus transmission risk in the workforce and reduce stress on the Provincial testing system, particularly as Ontario is experiencing its third wave of the pandemic and there is currently a backlog of test results in the region.

Find out more about World Health Day here  and our many other regional Covid-19 donations on our dedicated page