The need to stay safe from COVID-19 combined with lack enough resources to purchase the much needed face masks has pushed a section of Kenyans in the Nairobi slums into an act of desperation and creativity in a bid to acquire the much needed commodity.
Two days after President Uhuru Kenyatta directed all Kenyans visiting public places to wear face masks, authorities in Nairobi commenced arrests on individuals without masks.
And so with an imminent arrest hanging over their heads and risk of contracting the deadly Coronavirus, these low income earning Kenyans have been forced to come up with desperate ways of ensuring that they have the masks.
One moving incident is that of nine year old grade three boy in Mathare North slums who opted to use a sliced peel of an orange, tied a string on both ends as a mask.
Carefully strapped around his face, the orange peel mask only covers his mouth and part of his nose.
Oblivious of the little or no difference the improvised mask is going to make, the boy tells Ghetto Radio crew visiting the area that he is using the orange peel mask because it is at least comfortable on his face and can help them breathe easily.
He further says that his parents cannot afford to buy them the recommended masks.
“We can breathe well with these masks, our mother has not bought us the other ones,” the young boy told Ghetto Radio.
From Mathare North slums crossing over to Soweto slums in Kayole area, a deaf mute boy is spotted with another type of improvised mask.
His is just a piece of clothe folded and a string used to tie it on her face.
Clothe face masks are currently retailing between Sh. 50 and Sh. 200.
The N95 face mask which is deemed as the most efficient in curbing the spread of coronavirus is retailing at Ksh. 1,000 a piece.
The debate on whether to wear or not to wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 has been going on amongst various experts.
Some experts argue that masks help keep away the infectious microbes that might escape from a sick person when he coughs or sneezes in public.
WHO had earlier on advised that the use of masks be left for health care workers who are on the frontline in the fight against the virus.
“You cannot blame these kids for using the orange peels because the high rate of poverty witnessed here, you would rather choose to have unga on your table and not a face mask, ” said neighbour to the Mathare North children.
Kenya embarked on a robust plan to have the masks manufactured locally by Rivatex Company and the Kitui County Textile Centre.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe says that the masks will be distributed for free and also made available to everyone at affordable prices.