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June 15, 2005

De Beers Establishes African Health Scholars Program at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Project Designed to Address Africa’s Public Health Crisis

In an effort to strengthen Africa’s public health leadership infrastructure, De Beers today announced the establishment of the De Beers African Health Scholars Program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The program will support six African graduate students’ studies for their Masters of Public Health (MPH) in an effort to provide Africa with capable health experts. After receiving their MPH, the students will return to Africa to apply the skills they have learned in much needed areas.

Africa is plagued with serious health problems. AIDS claims 2 million adults and children each year while pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea are responsible for an additional 3 million deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization. Over 4 million of the 10.6 million child deaths worldwide occur in Africa; nearly all of these deaths are due to highly prevalent and severe infectious diseases in combination with malnutrition and deficiencies of specific nutrients, such as vitamin A and zinc. These high rates of illness and death devastate cities, villages and families and stunt economic growth leading to political unrest and social upheaval. Many of these conditions are preventable with existing measures, but they are not delivered because of poverty and inadequate health infrastructures. In response to this need, De Beers and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have joined forces to provide a cadre of health leaders with the skills needed to build public health programs and processes in sub-Saharan Africa.

As a part of an 11-month program to be held for three consecutive years, the De Beers African Health Scholars will participate in a practical experience on a major health problem in Africa such as HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, an area in which De Beers is heavily involved. Full tuition and a stipend providing living expenses, transportation to and from their home countries in Africa and a practicum experience will be provided to the six De Beers scholars.

“This program is bilaterally beneficial. Not only will it provide the scholars with an opportunity they may not have been afforded, but it will ultimately impact the African countries in which these students will return to help lead the fight against AIDS and other endemic diseases that debilitate the continent’s capacity,” said Nicky Oppenheimer, De Beers Chairman.

“De Beers is proud to provide the opportunity for African students to receive an internationally-recognized Johns Hopkins public health degree allowing them to return to their homes with additional knowledge and greater career opportunities,” stated Oppenheimer.

The De Beers African Health Scholars program is a part of De Beers’ overall commitment to the empowerment of Africa economically, ethically and socially. This program is particularly important to De Beers as the fight against HIV/AIDS is one of the company’s major strategic areas of focus. The company currently funds 16 AIDS-related projects including awareness, education and counselling initiatives; hospice and community care programs; child/orphan care; income-generating initiatives and research projects; and, significantly, free anti-retroviral treatment for employees and their spouses or life partners. De Beers seeks to provide a holistic workplace program, which will enhance the quality of life for HIV infected and affected employees and the communities in which they live and work, while minimizing the impact of HIV/AIDS on the organization. 

In 1999, Angola experienced one of the most severe polio epidemics of recent years, and at the invitation of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the De Beers Group entered a two-year partnership in what the WHO described as the most important public health initiative of the 20th Century - the attempt to rid the world of polio.  De Beers donated £2.8 million to the cause, as well as using its worldwide marketing and public relations resources and expertise to raise the profile of the campaign. The company was honoured to become the first private sector company to partner a United Nations agency at this level.

The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University currently has 10 full-time masters of public health students from Africa. The school has research and training programs throughout sub-Saharan Africa. “Nicky Oppenheimer and De Beers understand what is needed to improve health in Africa. It is essential to build leadership capacity and improve the public health infrastructure. The De Beers African Scholars Program is an investment in global health that promises to yield great returns and have a lasting impact,” said Dr. Alfred Sommer, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The provision of health must be a priority, in achieving Africa’s promise. Moreover, this program helps to bridge the geographical, knowledge and research gaps to invigorate Africa’s public health sector overall,” stated Nicky Oppenheimer, De Beers Chairman.

About De Beers
Since its establishment in 1888, De Beers has been a key leader in the diamond industry, driving innovation in the mining and marketing of its natural product. With a major presence in South Africa and unique relationships with its partner governments of Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania, De Beers is the largest diamond mining company worldwide and an integral part of the economies of southern African nations.

De Beers employs approximately 24,000 people in 19 countries, with more than half of its employees based in southern Africa. The company also has 20 mines currently in production with more than a century’s worth of expertise in every form of mining, including open pit, underground, alluvial, coastal and marine mining.

De Beers recognises that the state of all employees' health has a major influence on their work performance. De Beers therefore recognises the need to provide a cost effective quality service in order to promote and maintain the highest possible degree of physical, mental and social wellbeing of employees.

For further information please go to the De Beers Group website  www.debeersgroup.com and then to the ‘investing in the future’ section.

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Lowe at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.