Kenyans Support Each Other Through Virus Crisis

Residents of Nairobi walk past the Kenya National Archives National in Nairobi (file photo).

Amid the coronavirus gloom, leaders, corporates, clubs and ordinary Kenyans are going out of their way to make a difference.

A silent philanthropic spirit is sweeping across the country as changemakers seek to save and touch the lives of ordinary Kenyans, especially those from less privileged backgrounds.

They are making face masks, contributing money, donating hand sanitisers, water tanks, soap, food and other essential just help their fellow countrymen survive the hell brought by the pandemic.

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In Kitui, a factory that was making uniforms, mats, napkins and gardening clothes has transformed into a 24-hour operation making surgical masks -- an essential product for health workers on the frontline.

Kitui County Textile Centre (Kicotec) has gone flat out to make 30,000 masks a day to help plug a global shortage of the protective gear. Kenya needs 15 million masks for its citizens

With the rising global demand for masks, Governor Charity Ngilu has decided to step up.


After a visit to Taiwan two months ago, Ms Ngilu quickly arranged to have Kicotec, which employs more than 400 workers, make some sample masks that were taken to the Kenya Bureau of Standards for approval, before being granted the tender to make them by the Ministry of Health.

"Let's not wait and wonder. We import everything and produce nothing, despite having all the resources at our disposal," Mrs said Ngilu told The Washington Post in a recent interview.

Kicotec employees are mostly women with very little or no formal education. The staff, who work in three eight-hour shifts, were retrained in seven days and are helping protect health in both private and public hospitals.

"It was a big challenge to bring them from the village to where they are today. But they are all experts now. They could each run their own factory, if you ask me," Mr Mbuvi Mbathi, the factory manager, told The Washington Post.

In Mombasa, businessman and politician Suleiman Shahbal has forked out Sh900,000 to instal fabricated automatic sanitiser spray booths in partnership with the county government.


The booths, installed on both sides of the ferry with larger ones under construction, are part of efforts to disinfect the ferry, a known weak link in the fight against the virus.

"This is the least we can do for the community to fight off this pandemic," Mr Shahbal said.

Several landlords have also come to the rescue of tenants. Mr James Kanja, 43, who owns a one-bedroom and two-bedroom rental apartment block in Mugumo, Ruiru, has reduced the rent by half for the month of April.

"I am a businessman dealing with construction material. My business is down and I figured that some of my tenants are affected," he told the Nation.

"In that apartment, I have teachers and some of them are on half pay. Also, the uncertainty that comes with this pandemic can be overwhelming. I just wanted to uplift their spirits and alleviate some of their stress so they can focus on other basic needs."


Other organisations and initiatives are rallying Kenyans to help support children's homes and street children.

At the corporate level, banks, telcos and manufacturers have wired hundreds of millions of shillings to support the government fight against the global pandemic.

Others are giving in kind, from PPE for medical staff to oxygen, soap, hand sanitisers, surface disinfectants and masks. The Corporative Bank leads commercial banks in the charity drive after it wired Sh100 million to the kitty.

UBA Bank has offered Sh15 million while Safaricom, besides foregoing Sh3 billion in M-Pesa revenue every month to allow free transactions for amounts below Sh1,000, has given the Ministry of Health four thermal cameras that will be used for screening at border entry points.

A number of companies have also come together to launch the Safe Hands Kenya campaign that aims to distribute free soap, hand sanitisers, surface disinfectant and masks to Kenyans.


A nationwide marketing campaign will be rolled out in parallel to motivate behaviour change and inform people about practical and immediate measures they can take to stay safe and slow the spread of the virus.

Rotary clubs have not been left behind. They have launched an emergency kitty to provide soap, hand sanitisers and disinfectants to communities.

They are working with the National Emergency Covid-19 Crisis, the National Business Compact Forum and other stakeholders.

Already, the clubs have distributed hundreds of water tanks to communities in Nairobi and Kilifi counties.

"Rotary's top priority is to ensure that communities in low-income areas are supported and not left behind in the response effort," says Dr Joe Kamau, the Rotary chairman of the Emergency Response Team to Covid-19.

The response team is also partnering with ShofCo, Amref, Red Cross and Amurt Africa to support efforts by the National Rapid Response Team to deliver donor packs.

By Allan Olingo, Harry Misiko, John Kamau, Paul Wafula, Lilys Njeru and Kitavi Mutua

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