Kenya: One Woman's Resolve to Fight Covid-19

A community care worker providing care to a patient at her home (file photo).
14 September 2020

If the history of those who have been at the forefront in the country's fight against the Covid-19 disease is written today, then Peris Wakarusa's name would prominently feature therein.

When, in March 2020, the first case of the novel coronavirus was announced in the country, the then relatively unknown Ms Wakarusa received the news with mixed emotions just like other Kenyans.

Now a global pandemic, the country's first case of Covid-19, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, in November 2019 elicited questions to her and the answers remained unforthcoming.

Could Kenya really be home to such a disease? A disease whose adverse ramifications she only previously heard from news from elsewhere in the world.

Nonetheless, it had already made a landfall in the country and Kenyans had to be prepared to deal with it.

First resolve

Then Health Cabinet Secretary Mr Mutahi Kagwe, as if to confirm the turn of events, delivered the devastating news.

A missionary by vocation, Ms Wakarusa says her first resolve was to fast for three days, during which she prayed for the country.

She owns a block of apartments at Maguo, Githurai in the outskirts of Nairobi, and just days before the first coronavirus case was announced, she had been planning on improving the houses.

"I depend on odd jobs, and have not quite yet fully completed the construction of my houses; including that which I stay in with my family," says the single mother of six, adding that her unfinished houses needed better roofing and plastering on the walls, as well as fittings including windows and doors, among other finishing requirements.

Ready for harvest

Ms Wakarusa who also reveals she has five acres of land in Lamu County on which she grows timber trees - some which are ready for harvest - indicates that a day after the first patient was announced in the country, a client offered to buy trees worth Sh160,000 from her.

Ordinarily, this would have meant an opportunity to complete her construction projects, but this was not to be.

"I had informed my children that our dream of finishing the construction of our houses had come to reality and they were all thrilled," she says.

The tree sale deal was actualised and she spent Sh10,000 on shopping for her family - mostly foodstuff.

Ms Wakarusa, who is also a mason, then made arrangements to finish her overdue projects.

Sensitising residents

However, on March 17, her plans took a different turn. She decided to shelve them and instead do something; however little it be, to expedite the fight against the pandemic.

That is how she started sensitising her locality's residents on the need for social distancing, wearing masks, and regular hand washing, among other measures recommended by the Ministry of Health, as well as using her resources to fumigate the areas where street urchins spend their nights.

"In his address, the Health CS called on people to ensure they frequently wash their hands, sanitise and fumigate public places. As a missionary, I understand that saving God's people entails joining hands in the war against this enemy and I decided to use all the resources at my disposal," she says.

She consulted one of her church elders, a Mr Johnson Ngaruiya who was surprised by her decision and wondered why she was very concerned about the society's welfare to the extent that she seemed to overlook her family.

All said and done, proceeds from the sale of the trees were all directed to aid in the fight against Covid-19; a move she says precipitated into confrontations between her and some of her children.

"After thorough consultation with some of the Ministry of Health officials, I was advised on the best fumigation's chemicals and where to buy them. The remaining Sh150,000 of my tree sales went into this cause; buying chemicals, sanitizers, hand washing liquid soaps and surgical face masks," she says without showing any signs of regret for her actions.

Bodaboda riders

She also bought small sanitising containers, a fumigation pressure pump, a hand sprayer and printed campaign labels.

Her expedition to ensure those living in her neighbourhood do not contract the virus in public places had officially began.

"My first concern was bodaboda riders, within Ruiru Constituency. CS Kagwe had expressed his great worry about them being at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus and spreading it, since they serve a lot of people. During the initial days, people were worried," the mother of six explains.

Her move was highly hailed by the riders, who she says were particularly thrilled and appreciated her diligence. She felt she did the right thing.

Besides the riders, she embarked on a daily mission of fumigating public places such as markets, the outsides of rental houses and also private homes, matatus and private vehicles, tuktuks, hospitals, churches, police stations, streets, among others.

Serve society

"For instance, I got a record of all buses that ply between Githurai and Nairobi Central Business District. My schedule, six days in a week is fully occupied, I only rest on Sundays. Since I began the assignment, I have not skipped a day. It's an obligation that God called me to do," she proudly says adding that God has similarly been constantly providing for her and her family in return.

However, the task has not been a walk in the park.

In 2007, Ms Wakarusa says she was involved in an accident which almost paralysed her; affecting her spinal cord necessitating that she uses a wheelchair for a year and half, which sometimes hampers her working.

"But I thank God I recovered. I walk tirelessly to serve the society. I'm able to carry a spray pump that contains up to 20litres of chemicals, which sometimes triggers backaches. I also develop hand joint problems," she says, insisting she will only be relieved when the country confirms the win against the pandemic.

Nearly depleted

Asked how she manages to fund her initiative, she says that while she had bought enough chemicals, liquid soaps and sanitizers to serve her for some months, the commodities are now nearly depleted. Her call is for well-wishers to support her in the journey.

Most clergy are known for relying on their congregants for many things. But for her, a missionary pastor, what she does is practically the opposite. She is serving and giving back to the society.

"Preachers are mostly known for depending on their congregants. These are difficult and trying times, we should stretch our hands and support these congregants instead," she advises.

Apart from showing her generosity in fighting against coronavirus, Ms Wakarusa discloses that for a number of years now, she has been assisting orphans and street children.

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