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. In 2005, it was estimated that 24.5 million people were living with HIV in Africa, with 2.7 million new infections in the last year alone. This influx has taxed the already underfunded healthcare systems in this region and 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. Furthermore, several years ago, Debswana entered into a partnership with the Ministry of Health to make its healthcare facilities available to the general public.
In Namibia, the diamond company Namdeb has 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 has 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.
Diamond revenues also contribute to fighting other diseases besides HIV/AIDS, such as 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.
An estimated 5 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