Blood minerals fuelling epidemics

Nick Kristof’ recent article on blood minerals in eastern Congo has set off a lot of chatter in the blogosphere (see here, and here). There is a lot of talk about company’s “cleaning up their supply chains”. In the growing maelstrom of indignation, let’s not forget the human components of those supply chains: the transporters and sex workers (the invisible link in every supply chain).

To get from the DRC to the factories in China and Taiwan, those minerals travel thousands of kilometres and cross multiple borders to the ports in either Tanzania or South Africa. The truckers hauling them work for SMEs or themselves. They spend an average of 27 days a month on the road with no access to health or information. HIV prevalence rates are twice as high among truckers as among the general population and is the number one killer of drivers. Road accidents and malaria come in at numbers two and three respectively. At the congested borders, where the drivers often spend days or even weeks waiting their turn to cross, sex work flourishes, turning rest spots into public health “hotspots“.

Blood minerals are fuelling a war that has killed millions, and we should applaud and support those responding to this tragedy.

But the same blood minerals are also fuelling the spread of HIV and other epidemics. Those affected deserve our support too.

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