Kenyans Not Buying Mitumba Clothes for Fear of Coronavirus

Second hand clothes on display at a stall in Toi Market in Nairobi.

Nairobi — As the coronavirus pandemic continues ravaging major sectors of the economy, small and medium-sized enterprises have not been spared and appear to be the worst hit with more effects in the coming days.

Take the story of Rose Wanjiru, who sells second-hand clothes commonly known as Mitumba at Toi market in Nairobi.

"Since the government confirmed the first case of the Coronavirus in the country, I have not sold any item at all. It is really sad and difficult for me," said Wanjiru, "they (buyers) are not coming."

Wanjiru, a mother of 4, says she depends on what she makes on a daily basis to fend for her children, but with many people running away from buying second-hand clothes out of fear of contracting the virus, she wonders what to do next.

"That is my only source of income and figuring out what to do now is not possible. I depend on my small business to feed my children. Now they are out of school and I need to ensure that they get everything they need in the house. I have exhausted my savings. I hope the government will intervene and help those of us who will not be able to afford even food," Wanjiru said.

Kenyan traders import second-hand clothes and shoes from Europe for sale in open-air markets or stalls in various parts of the city, but with the virus taking its toll in the countries of origin, people are fearing to buy such items to stay away from the virus.

Europe was recently declared as the new epicenter of the coronavirus whose first case was reported in China, a country with over 1 billion people, but which has now managed to suppress its spread.

Of all the more than 7,000 deaths and cases reported globally, statistics show that Europe has more than the rest of the world combined outside China.

Another trader, Monica Atieno who resides in Kibera, said she makes a living from washing people's clothes in their houses but her life is about to turn around after her clients suddenly requested her to take a break.

Some told her it's a precautionary measure because she has different clients.

"This outbreak has really affected me and I just hope it will end soon because if the situation continues, then I will not be able to even feed my children and I am a single mother," Atieno exclaimed.

"I have clients from Monday to Saturday, four of them have already asked me not to go because they know I wash clothes for different people. The other two are yet to communicate to me. Things are getting really bad because of this virus."

Kenya has so far confirmed four cases, and quarantined more than 20 people.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said more than 100 cases have been tested and many of them found negative.

The two traders who spoke to Capital FM are just but a representation of what is happening to a majority of Kenyans who fear for the worst to come.

"I urge Kenyans to pray and ask God to intervene because we cannot ignore all what is happening. It is like God is angry with the whole world and we need to seek for His mercies hoping that the situation will end," Wanjiru said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has already declared Saturday a National Prayer day, asking Kenyans to unite and put their differences aside in praying for the nation during this difficult time.

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