Rural women join forces to make face masks to fight COVID-19

Monday, April 13th, 2020 15:10 |
A woman makes face masks at Rivatex East Africa textile firm in Eldoret, Kenya, April 11, 2020. (Xinhua/Robert Manyara)

One month ago, Kenya's Jane Akinyi had closed her tailoring business after coronavirus pandemic hit the country denying hundreds of people their source of livelihood.

"When I closed my business, life started to take the wrong direction. I was worried about my children now that the source of livelihood had been disrupted by the spread of the virus," said Akinyi, a resident of north-western Kenyan town of Eldoret. But now Akinyi is not worried anymore.

"I never imagined of getting a job here or giving a hand in the fight of the disease that has shaken the world," said Akinyi at Eldoret-based Rivatex East Africa where she is currently working.

Akinyi, who never went to school but secured tailoring skills, thinks running a machine at the giant industry will guarantee her a good future.

The mother of two is among 70 stitchers hired by Rivatex East Africa to make face masks that are being used in the fight against coronavirus.

The Moi university-owned textile manufacturer has rolled out mass production of face masks to boost the fight against coronavirus in Kenya.

The manufactured masks will be distributed to health facilities across the country.

Since last week, there has been a beehive of activity as Akinyi and her colleagues took their positions to manufacture the protective gear.

After the government revived the textile manufacturing firm last year, it has given hope to hundreds of unemployed youth and women.

"Everyone in my family is happy after I landed a job here. I know after the end of the day I will carry some food for my family," said Akinyi.

The firm's change in production reflects a dire need for even the most basic protective equipment against COVID-19.

Kenya, like most African countries, has little experience manufacturing medical supplies and rely on imports.

Faced with the current situation, some Africa countries are relying almost entirely on donations, including that from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, who has shipped 6 million masks to Africa. The billionaire also donated a huge number of gloves, swabs, protective suits and 500 ventilators.

Kenya alone says it needs 15 million masks. Thomas Kipkurgat, the managing director of Rivatex East Africa said the firm is producing 8,400 face masks per day.

"Rivetex is a textile facility and we expect to produce enough masks to help in the fight against this pandemic," said Kipkurgat.

He said the firm had employed additional staff to work on a 24-hour production to support the country's war against COVID-19.

"We have engaged our workers on a 24 hours basis. They work in shifts," said Kipkurgat.

The workers besides getting the opportunity to demonstrate their stitching abilities said they were committed to save fellow citizens from the risk of contracting COVID-19.

"We had to suspend making other items to support the country contain the pandemic," Clare Nafula, a 40-year-old stitcher.

"We need each other in these trying moments. The pandemic has taught us a lesson that every Kenyan has to play a role to contain it," she added.

Nafula like Akinyi never went to school but learned the stitching technology from her aunt.

"It worth spending more time to make something important that could save more lives than idling at home," said Teresa Kirui, a stitcher.

Kenya is struggling to ensure that COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is made locally and distributed to the civilians.

A fortnight ago, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the government would soon start the manufacture of PPEs to forestall a looming shortage.

"The government is working with textile manufacturers in the country to produce adequate face mask and other PPEs to aid the fight against the disease," said Kagwe.  (Xinhua)

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