An estimated five million people have access to appropriate healthcare globally thanks to revenue from diamonds.
“When a rural health post is constructed most of the money spent comes from diamonds.”
– Dr. G. K. T. Chiepe, Botswana
Diamonds have long funded—and continue to fund—public healthcare programs. Nowhere on earth are these programs more important than in Africa. Besides having some of the highest child mortality rates in the world, no other continent has been more affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Today, out of the 34 million people worldwide who are HIV-positive, 69% live in sub-Saharan Africa. There are roughly 23.8 million infected persons in all of Africa and 91% of the world’s HIV-positive children live in Africa. More than one million adults and children die every year from HIV/AIDS in Africa alone.
In addition to taxing the already underfunded healthcare systems in this region, the HIV threat has created an entirely new problem: millions of children (many with HIV infections themselves) left as orphans.
It is a daunting challenge. Fortunately, the revenues from the diamond industry have helped the region cope with this crisis. For example:
- Debswana, a Botswana diamond company, was the first mining company in the world to offer HIV/AIDS treatment, in addition to company medical coverage, to its employees. The company also partnered with the Ministry of Health to make its healthcare facilities available to the general public.
- In Namibia, the diamond company Namdeb formed a strategic alliance with the Namibia Business Coalition on Aids (NABCOA) to assist companies and the public sector in creating HIV/AIDS workplace programs. Namdeb also partnered with the Ministry of Health and Social Services to develop national awareness programs on the treatment of HIV and AIDS, as well as voluntary counseling and testing (VCT).
- In South Africa, De Beers was the first company to extend free anti-retroviral treatment (ART) to HIV positive employees, employee life partners and former employees. The De Beers Fund invested more than half a million dollars to 22 HIV/AIDS related initiatives in 2005, and in 2004 the company received a Global Business Coalition Award for its HIV/AIDS program.
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Diamond revenues also contribute to fighting other diseases besides HIV/AIDS, such as the Ebola outbreak and polio. In addition, they help provide low-cost healthcare, accessible facilities, and clean water, which means lower infection and mortality rates and extended life expectancy.