Kao Mine brings quality health care to villagers



MASERU – Nestled in the remote mountains, Kao community residents have for ages battled lack of health facilities and inadequate transportation among the various day-to-day challenges that define their life in the area. For villagers in these mountains getting medical attention, let alone access a health facility is a herculean task.  For instance, the nearest primary healthcare centre is some 20km away at Ha Rampai and there are no facilities in the area to cater for the needs of people who need urgent medical care.

Most families here struggle to access health services to sustain their livelihoods, leading to needless loss of lives – with some women giving birth on their way to the clinic because of the long distance they have travel to access services. The Kao community, which includes the Ha Shishila, Porenki and Lihloahloeng villages in the Botha-Bothe district have been in need of a clinic since time immemorial and are forced to travel to Rampai Health Centre to access health services.

Villagers here say that they usually walk for long distances to access health services, a journey of between three to four hours depending on their health condition. Some of them even die along the way while pregnant women have given birth before they reach the clinic. The most agonizing part, one of the villagers explains, is the memory of an incident where a mother lost a child after giving birth along the way because of the long walking distance to Ha Rampai to seek assistance.

From Ha Shishila, ’Mamatebele Tjoka says to add to the misery of the long journey to the health facility is the alleged ill-treatment from nurses at the Ha Rampai clinic. She alleges sometimes the nurses insult patients for issues as trivial as handing in old healthcare booklets. ’Mamatebele also claims that the clinic does not always open on time, which greatly inconveniences patients. She adds that even when it is open services are very slow to the extent that they often go back home without getting the assistance they seek.

Further narrating the villagers’ ordeal, a youth from Lihloahloeng, ’Matebello Moloi, explains that in 2019 a terrifying incident occurred where a lady gave birth on her way to the clinic because of the long distance and, unfortunately, the child even died on the spot.

She says such incidents developed a sense of fear among villagers so much that they sometimes opt not go to the clinic at all. She says they were at some point unable to access services just by considering the distance that they had to travel.

Mosiuoa Tsebe from Porenki says the journey to Ha Rampai to access services is a burden, especially in the cold weather. He says during heavy rains, rivers flood and often hinder them from going to access services, therefore, causing problems for some of the people who need medical attention.  He further says this also leads to some men refusing to test for many diseases which often causes their deaths.  But these will now become a thing of the past after Kao Mine reached out and lend a helping hand to the community by handing over a clinic at a function held in the area on Thursday last week.

The clinic is fully equipped and started offering services on the Monday of the same week. One of the villagers aptly suggested the facility should be called ‘Katlehong Health Centre’, a reminder of a hugetriumph over the protracted health challenges.

The health centre will, among others, offer services to pregnant women, the elderly and everyone else who intends to access health services from within the Kao community.

During the handover ceremony, the director health services in Botha-Bothe, Dr Lebohang Sao, said as a new health post from the Monday of opening the clinic will operate for only a month, then close for a month to fine-tune operations before continuous day-to-day services resume. She assured residents that the clinic will eventually operate daily as the community caters for a wide range of people and every day there are people who require health services.

She also indicated that it is important that services be brought to the people, commending Kao Mine for the great job of bringing services closer to the community. Dr Sao added that the the health centre will in many ways mitigate the loss of health accessibility and will have a huge impact on the villagers who used to travel for long distance to access services.

Nqoe council chairperson, Sesoai Mangali, urged fellow residents to visit the clinic to access services, calling on them to take good care of the facility. He added the they should adhere to prescriptions and instructions given to them by the nursing staff at the clinic, and be faithful to them.

Mangali advised men, specifically, to go for tests such as HIV/Aids and prostate cancer. Member of Parliament for Moteete Constituency within which the clinic is located, Teboho Mojapela, said it is important for the community to access health services on time. He said it would be incorrect that even when services are closer to them, they fail to access services to get assistance either for testing or for treatment of any kind of disease that they may have. “It is also important for nurses to serve the community with love, respect and honour and also make sure to advise them to come to the clinic more often for their well-being.

“It is also important that the clinic offers all the testing for everyone, not just what the patient came for but should test for other diseases,” he said. Mojapela also emphasised that it is his duty to see to it that the community of Moteete and the nation at large is well taken care of and gets the kind of services that they need.

He said it is, therefore, right that he intervenes between the government and the people for their well-being. Mojapela also noted that there are a lot of mines in the area which have not been serving their purpose by bringing back to the community but that Kao has done something huge for the community, and, therefore believes that is a wonderful gesture.

Kao Mine CEO, Mohale Ralikariki, during the handover also said it has been many years since the community has been accessing health services from Ha Rampai, which took them hours to get to. He said Kao approached the Ministry of Health regarding the issue and tabled plans to solve the matter.

He indicated that the clinic is fully equipped with health equipment which will assist the community in so many ways. “It is important for the community to take care of the clinic and by doing they will be opening doors for many other opportunities which may come during the years.  “Among other things, if it happens that the mine closes the community should be left with many things that will keep them going even in the coming years, which were brought by the mine. I also want to say, it is for the community’s benefit and their health, therefore, this could not have come at a better time,” he noted.

Storm Mountain Diamonds (SMD), which operates Kao Mine, is jointly owned by Namakwa Diamonds and the government of Lesotho.  The mine has an active Community Rating System (CSR) programme aimed at improving the livelihoods of the communities surrounding its operations.

Through their CRS programme, SMD has decided to support the community of Kao and other villages surrounding the operations of the mine with a health post in support of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 which promotes good health and well-being.

There is currently no health facility in Kao so community members have to walk daily to the nearest health facility in Rampai village which is 15 to 20km away from Kao to seek medical help. Another great need that the mine also identified is that of the Nqoe Community Council to generate income on its own to meet some of the developmental requirements and deliver services to the community.  The mine also donated five two-roomed houses which have been handed over to the Nqoe Community Council to rent out in order to generate income for the council.

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