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Harun Mwenda, a public service vehicle driver, said operators are torn between staying safe and earning a living/CFM - Joseph Muraya

Capital Health

COVID-19: Dilemma as informal sector workers contend with shrinking clientele

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 18 – “Hio kitu (that thing),” is the term many city residents operating small businesses in Nairobi downtown are using to refer to Covid-19.

They know the disease is infectious and has killed people; but they did not know it can also breath the life out of their already strangling businesses.

As they glare to the possibility of being sent out of business – their sole source for daily income – those interviewed by Capital FM News said they have two options, “stay at home and die of hunger or open our businesses.”

“I have rent to pay, children to feed, how do I stay at home?” Johnson Gacheru asked.

Gacheru works as a shoe shiner at the ever-busy Koja bus station but when we met him, he had no client and appeared in deep thoughts.

“On a normal morning, I usually serve tens of customers. I have only served 6 since morning,” he said during the interview at 10am on Thursday.

He was in the town center by 6 am, his usual reporting time.

“We plead with the Government to do anything to cushion us from the effects of this disease,” Anthony Maina, a matatu operator said.

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His sentiments were shared by Harun Mwenda, a public service vehicle driver, who said operators are torn between staying safe and earning a living.

Notably, Mwenda like many of his colleagues, has not adopted basic precautionary measures like having sanitizers.

“We cannot afford these things. This thing can only be finished by God,” he said before proceeding to eat his cake wrapped in a plastic paper.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has since declared Saturday a day of national prayer, as the country seeks divine intervention to deal with the pandemic.

The President made the announcement on Tuesday shortly after the Ministry of Health revealed there was a fourth case of coronavirus, of a patient who traveled from London to the country.

He arrived on Monday, March 9.

“On that day, through our religious leaders, we will be asking God for His forgiveness for anything that we may have done wrong or wronged him. On that day, we shall together ask for his protection and blessing for our Nation, for our people, for the world and all global citizens. We shall ask God to abide with us, and to guide us, both in this period and in times to come,” the President said.

But on Wednesday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe announced three more cases rising the number of infections in the country to seven.

Kagwe told a daily news conference eleven other suspected cases were being closely monitored awaiting the outcome of test results.

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READ: Health ministry confirms 3 more coronavirus cases

The three new cases include a couple who arrived from Madrid, Spain, through Dubai on March 4.

The disease has claimed more than 7,500 lives across the world, while some 180,000 are infected.

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