Doors open to Kwale's first MAT Clinic with UNODC's Support

Kwale, 02 October 2017 - The Governor of Kwale H.E Salim Mvurya inaugurated the first clinic for medically assisted treatment (MAT) in the County.  Surrounded by the county team, representatives from NASCOP, USAID, UNODC, civil society organisation, clients and family members, he unveiled a plaque to commemorate the event with distinguished guests. UNODC Regional Office for Eastern Africa has officially handed over the medically assisted therapy (MAT) clinic in Kwale to the County Government. The clinic, which is now part of Kombani Health Centre, started registering male and female clients who inject drugs as their first clients on this historic day. It is the 4 th clinic at the Kenyan Coast to be handed over to counties by UNODC. The facilities and the technical support provided is included in the context of a comprehensive national programme aimed at curbing the HIV epidemic among people who use drugs in Kenya - an effort of getting Kenya closer to meeting zero new infection by 2030.

The inauguration of the new clinic was made possible through the financial support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and technical support of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The event was marked by many addresses, all having hope and dignity as a central message.  Specifically, the attendees heard from clients enrolled in the programme in other counties - human stories that resonated with those just enrolled on that day.

In addition, participants raised the need for an improved multi-stakeholder approach involving governments, international organizations, NGO's and civil society. It was also emphasized that there was a need for more shelters for victims, improved  witness protection mechanisms and better social and health services for victims of trafficking. Various participants also highlighted the importance of addressing the psychosocial needs of victims considering that they having in many instances been exploited and violated in the most horrendous ways. Participants also noted that it was important for law enforcement and other criminal justice officials to engage with victims in a manner that would not re-victimise, stigmatise or criminalize victims, but that would ensure the protection of their human rights as well as safety as potential witnesses.

Speaking during the inauguration ceremony, H.E. Mvurya appreciated the partner organisations for their efforts aimed at encouraging some of the county's most vulnerable residents to engage in gainful activities. His message was one focused on youth and invaluable resources in the county, and he stated that "This treatment and programme will enable our youth to re-join the community". Also joining his voice at the event were, Dr. Martin Sirengo, Head of NASCOP and Ms. Katherine Farnsworth, HIV/AIDS Team Leader, USAID. Both underlined the significance of this programme in ensuring that the Kenyan response leaves no one behind.

The guests, led by Dr. Makenzi, County Pharmacist and MAT County Coordinator, toured the clinic with the Governor during which the first doses of methadone were administered to the first clients.  Clients, generous with their stories, shared their dreams and hopes. The day-to-day operation of the MAT clinic, under the leadership of the county, also benefits from the presence and support of civil society organisations.  For the facility in Kwale, two local civil society organizations, TeensWatch and Reachout Trust, will engage with clients throughout their journey, providing psychosocial support to ensure optimal support during the course of the treatment.  For the first time, as Kenya becomes a lead on harm reduction on the continent, in-country resources  and expertise was called upon to provide refresher training and mentoring for the first week of operation.  The Kwale team was able to call upon   their colleagues from the Counties of Mombasa and Kilifi to ensure a smooth start, a sure sign that Kenya's MAT programme is moving towards technical sustainability and becoming an expert hub in the region.