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How masks directive has upset low-income budgets : The Standard




A man wears an improvised mask in Migori Town. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Wanjiku, who lives in Kayole on less than Sh200 a day, is required to buy a mask at Sh100 every day.

This mask is the licence to her freedom outside her house. The government has made the mask-wearing mandatory and without it, Wanjiku should stay indoors.
But she cannot afford to stay at home, her children have to eat. She has to look for a job for the day, with most menial jobs paying about Sh200 a day. 
She buys a mask, and heads to town. And there lies a bigger problem. The city is deserted and after a long day of looking for jobs and finding none, she will go home, having incurred a loss of Sh100.

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In the face of such difficulty, Kenyans like Wanjiku – over 16 million of them – have resorted to buying homemade face masks that are reusable. You just need to wash them with soap and water.
Kenya Bureau of Standards recently said that there is currently no local standard for reusable face masks. 
“At the moment there is no Kenya standard for these types of covering, certification for re-usable cloth coverings is currently not a mandatory requirement prior to sale,” said the agency in statement.

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“Cloth material masks should be made of double layer of fabric with a filter layer in the middle for greater protection. However, the general public must take heed that such cloth coverings do not guarantee protection against coronavirus.”
Hawkers are making a killing from the government’s directive and have stocked up masks. In their array of goods are single-use masks, some minted in high-end factories and others grossly sub-standard, and reusable masks, most of which are homemade.

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Most Kenyans, already battered as the economy remains slow, opt to go for the reusable masks that cost less but pose a high risk of infection from the deadly virus.
High poverty
Kenya has the sixth-highest number of poor people in the world, a 2019 report by the World Bank revealed, with 17.6 million living at below two dollars (Sh220) a day.
The country sits behind India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Madagascar, according to the Poverty and Shared Prosperity, 2018 report.
Kenya’s official data showed that about 16.4 million people were living below the poverty line in 2015/16 period, meaning these individuals could not afford a decent meal.


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If one is to buy a mask each day, Monday through Friday, for an entire month they would end up spending up to Sh2,000 on them.
Even for some salaried people, it is too much of an investment.
The Covid-19 disease has infected close to three million people worldwide, with over 198,000 deaths as at yesterday.

Are you suspecting that you have coronavirus? Before you rush to the hospital, do this quick easy self-assessment test. #StayHome #WashYourHands HERE.

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