COVID-19

One man's quest to 'preach the gospel of handwashing' to Kenyans

Waithaka says people often need to be reminded and sometimes forced to do the obvious.

In Summary

• Waithaka, a father of five, wakes up every morning, rides his bicycle to city estates with one aim, to sensitise Kenyans on the importance of hygiene and handwashing.

• He says he will not give up despite the numerous challenges he has to endure while delivering his message until the country is declared free of the virus.

In Nairobi’s Kariobangi South, we meet Samson Waithaka who has taken upon himself to sensitize the public on the importance of washing hands. See story https://bit.ly/3e5pmI6

In Nairobi’s Kariobangi South, we meet Samson Waithaka who has taken upon himself to sensitize the public on the importance of washing hands.

Waithaka, a father of five, wakes up every morning, rides his bicycle to various city estates with one aim, to sensitize Kenyans on the importance of hygiene and washing of hands amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an interview with the Star, Waithaka said he was moved when he visited the Muthurwa Market and witnessed how ignorant members of the public were of the coronavirus.

 
 
 

He said though various preventive measures had been published and broadcast all over, some Kenyans had just chosen to bypass all that.

“I looked at them and how ignorant they were and felt so disappointed. I resolved to use my own means to help them wash hands,” he said.

Waithaka said the following morning, he mounted a 10-litre jerrycan on his bicycle and rode to the same place and started shouting to the traders that they wash their hands.

"I was surprised that within a few minutes of shouting and blowing my whistle, crowds had gathered around washing their hands,” he said.

According to Waithaka, this was a clear indication that people need to be reminded often and on some occasions forced to do the obvious.

"Since then I have moved in Githurai and Umoja with the same motive to get the information to the people," he says.

Waithaka said in a day he uses about 60 litres of water for the exercise.

 
 
 

“By the end of the day, I use about six jerrycans because as you can see, when I make the call, people come in large numbers,” he said.

Waithaka said while seated on his bicycle, he orders those washing hands to line up and maintain social distancing so as to avert any possible infection.

“I have been sitting in my house close to a month now. Being idle has not helped but now I feel happy that at least I am part of this process of saving lives,” he said.

According to him, he used to transport kids to and from various schools on his bicycle before the disease struck forcing the government to close learning institutions.

The closure, he said, left him hopeless not knowing how to cope with the situation.

"As you can see I am disabled with a spine cord complication. But I put that aside knowing that with what I am doing, I ring hope to one or two people,” he said.

Samson Waithaka captured washing hands of a city resident
Samson Waithaka captured washing hands of a city resident
Image: EZEKIEL AMINGA

Waithaka said he will not give up despite the numerous challenges he has to endure while delivering his message until the country is declared free of the virus.

Kenya has so far confirmed 179 Covid-19 cases with six fatalities and nine recoveries.

The Ministry of Health indicates that over 5,000 people have been tested and out of the 1,928 contacts that have been under monitoring, 1,416 have been discharged while the rest are under observation.

Going forward, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the Ministry will embarking on rapid testing of all health workers and medical staff.

This he said will be extended to all those in private hospitals and facilities holding quarantined persons.

Kenya reported the first case on March 13 and since then there have been targeted interventions aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.

President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a 7 pm to 5 am curfew across the country and stoppage of movement in and out of Nairobi Metropolitan area, Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale counties.

These are areas which have been deemed as Covid-19 hotspots.

The Head of State has maintained that if Kenyans developed a culture of wearing masks and washing hands, this would go a long way in saving lives amid efforts to stop the disease.

Uhuru on Monday said decisions taken by individual people will play a key role in winning the war against the coronavirus.

He said, as a result, members of the public have been advised to wear face masks whilst in public places.

These include matatus, supermarkets, open-air markets and now salons and barbershops.

"It is in moments like this that the character of a people and the destiny of a nation are clarified. If we act like the fingers folded into a fist, we will stop the damage this pandemic would cause," he said.

He added, "Our greatness will not be revealed by soldiers in uniform this time.  It will show in the sacrifices we each make to protect one another. Wearing your mask and washing your hands will save lives".

 Uhuru said the bravery and dedication of medical personnel, should this pandemic continue to escalate, will demonstrate the country's mettle.

The President said it is time for all Kenyans to turn out, for the duration of this global pandemic.

"Wearing a mask when outside the home, cleaning your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds several times a day, avoiding all areas with people who will be closer to you than 1.5 meters, heeding and complying with government directives is all we need to defeat this enemy,"  he said.

A boda boda operator washes his hands on Samson Waithaka's bicycle.
A boda boda operator washes his hands on Samson Waithaka's bicycle.
Image: CHARLENE MALWA

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe warned measures that have been put in place by the government are not going to stop the disease abruptly.

According to Kagwe, though Kenya has been getting mild infections, the time has come for all citizens to mentally prepare for the worst.

“Fellow Kenyans, let us brace ourselves for bad news, let us prepare for the worst. We must brace ourselves and be ready mentally to face a situation we have never faced before," he said.

"We can no longer run away from the disease. It is an invisible enemy that it is here with us and if we allowed ourselves to play chasing games with it, it will be difficult for us as a nation to catch up with it.”

The CS said Kenyans must prepare to face an 'insurmountable situation'.

"We are sailing towards a massive storm and I can assure you quarantine facilities are mentally straining and not convenient at all,” he added.


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