Masked, but not silenced

A Kenyan response to the COVID-19 crisis

In Kenya, more than 80% of the working population are engaged in informal employment, and it is the livelihoods of these informal labourers that are devastated by COVID-19 related Public Health measures. Informal labourers face the impossible choice of staying home as advised by government, or going out in search of work, in order to feed their families.

In response to the pandemic, the Kenyan government has now gazetted regulations which include hefty fines and/or imprisonment for disregarding its directives. Short of a total lock-down across the nation, directives include the following:

“Users of public or private transport and public transport operators shall wear a proper mask that must cover the person’s mouth and nose and also maintain a physical distance of not less than one metre.” (Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 41, signed by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe)

In response to this government directive, AE Kenya’s Mathare Women’s Project has resolved to make 5,000 reusable cloth facemasks for distribution in the community. The Project has identified skilled dressmakers, previously trained by the Mathare Women’s Project, who will manufacture the masks, and has sourced appropriate fabrics (with high filtration scores and good breathability) from a local supplier.

2,000 of these masks will be sold, providing a source of income to the dressmakers. The remaining 3,000 masks will be distributed to local community members who, due to the nature of their work, are unable to stay at home.

Recipients of the masks include police officers, security agents, small scale traders in informal settlements, commercial motorcycle riders (“bodaboda”) and public service vehicle drivers. The distribution is to be co-ordinated by the staff of AE’s Soweto Kayole Clinic, and will be in keeping with government regulations. Importantly, the mask distribution will involve education regarding COVID-19 and its prevention, and will place due emphasis on the principles of hand hygiene and social distancing. In the face of Kenya’s pandemic, AE will continue to reach out to communities with the love of Jesus, in both Word and Deed, knowing that no mask can silence the Gospel and its eternal hope for this nation.