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Kwale Base Titanium mining firm brings healthcare to rural village | Coastweek

Base Titamium Kwale mining operations : CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT -- Aerial view main plant, start of land rehabilitation, aerial view main operations and plant, vessel berthed at Mombasa terminal for export loading, and wet plant upgrade. PHOTOS - B.T.M.

Kwale Base Titanium mining firm brings healthcare to rural village

By Chrispinus Omar KWALE (Xinhua) -- The dedicated army of health personnel deployed to the Magaoni health center deep in Kenyan rural coastal village near the Indian Ocean, returns regularly to knock on the door of Bakari Ali Kikoi, a young clinical officer, who minds the health of the residents of the village.

In the past few months, Kikoi, who handles clinical cases as the first point of call for pregnant mothers, recalls dealing with a particularly high number of teenage pregnancies.

The pregnant teenagers were mostly from schools in the mineral-rich Magaoni ward in Msambweni, Kwale County, about 660km outside Nairobi, where an Australian-owned firm Base Titanium has been mining titanium, a mineral used in the manufacture of plastic paint, ceramics and building materials.

"We have had to double our investment in the local community.

"We initially had a dispensary but we upgraded it to a health center in order to provide more enhanced services to the community," said Mwanaharusi Khamisi, community development officer at Base Titanium.

Since its completion in 2014 and the eventual handover to the Kwale County Government because healthcare is a function of the lower-rung of the government, Magaoni has become an important port of call for the community’s healthcare needs.

Every morning, community health workers walk into Kikoi’s room at the center to bring reports.

These include cases of children suffering from acute malaria infections, and their mothers’ first intervention for such cases is usually to dash to a traditional healer.

"The community health workers have helped us to create awareness within the community.

"They have helped in malaria interventions. Community sensitization has helped mothers know children suffering from severe convulsions require urgent medical attention.

"Before, mothers used to seek the services of a traditional healer but now, they come here for treatment," Kikoi said.

The army of community healthcare workers, identified by their jungle-green T-shirts, trained by Base Titanium and deployed to some 45 other facilities in the region, have been more successful in their daily community interventions.

Their work has been central to family cohesion in the locality.

In recent months, they brought to the attention of the clinical officers, a dispute over family planning injections.

One particular case which arose at the facility was a nasty fight between a married couple, after a birth control intervention.

Kikoi said a child treated at the facility narrated back home how both mother and child were injected during a routine visit to seek malaria treatment.

This raised the father’s curiosity.

The father confronted the medics on the reason for the mother’s injection and was mad at the mother for seeking family planning injections at the facility.

"This center has helped the community which previously had very high levels of illiteracy which manifested itself in the high number of people seeking the intervention of traditional healers. We also have a high number of HIV/AIDS cases which we are handling," Kikoi said.

Located close to Ukunda, a resort town popular with European tourists, Magaoni and the neighboring villages have witnessed one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies.

A local primary school reported nine cases of teenage pregnancies in 2018, which required an increase in the number of community workers to intervene.

In order to convince men to work with women on birth control, Kikoi allows pregnant women entering the delivery room to be accompanied by their spouses for family support.

"We think it helps our course when men witness firsthand the difficulties women face during child-birth because we believe it would help them appreciate the challenges," Kikoi said.

He said the community healthcare personnel have helped to broaden access to healthcare.

The medical staff and community healthcare workers meet regularly to discuss interventions.

Built at a cost of 28 million shillings, (about 280,000 U.S. dollars), the facility was financed via Base Titanium’s corporate social responsibility budget, and aims to grow and eventually create an in-patient unit.

Mwanaharusi said plans for the in-patient unit remains one of the company’s long-term objectives as it prepares to end its mining operation at the mine site close to Magaoni in Msambweni in 2021.



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