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Lamu women cover faces with bras as mask prices soar

Face masks sold for Sh100 to Sh200 even after state ordered not more than Sh20 for mask

In Summary

• Apart from the high cost of the masks, many people have reported that few masks are on the market.

• Residents have urged the government to crack down on sellers taking advantage of the situation and make them sell affordable masks.

Mpeketoni trader Diana Watuka and her friends don bra masks as they go about their business on Sunday.
MASKS TOO COSTLY: Mpeketoni trader Diana Watuka and her friends don bra masks as they go about their business on Sunday.
Image: CHETI PRAXIDES

Women in some parts of Lamu have resorted to using their bras as face masks owing to the hiked prices of masks. 

But masks, even made of brassieres, are supposed to be used only once and then discarded for reasons of hygiene. Could they be boiled and reused? Surely there are health issues here.

And masks are supposed to fit snug. Might 42D be too large?

 

Would a man wear one? 

Despite the directive by Health CS Mutahi Kagwe requiring that face masks not be sold for more than Sh20, local manufacturers have taken advantage of the situation to exploit public.

However, in an effort to comply with directives requiring one to wear face masks in public, women from Mpeketoni, Hindi, Mokowe and Witu among others have made masks out of their bra cups for them and their families. 

They say masks are not only expensive but difficult to find. They say it's ridiculous to spend Sh100 or more on a face mask when the same amount can purchase food and other necessities.

Mpeketoni trader Diana Watuka said she has been forced to destroy several of her used bras and turn them into face masks for her children as she cannot afford to frequently buy them for her five children and herself.

“Those selling those masks locally are doing so at a very high cost and we can’t afford it. If a bra can serve the same purpose, why not use it? As a mother, I am doing everything I can to keep my family safe and will do anything to achieve that,” Watuka said. 

Residents have urged the government to crack down on price gouging.

 
 

“I have made several bra masks for myself and my children and other family members. People stare when they see us using bras but we have been forced by circumstances to do anything to stay safe," Hindi trader Nancy Chege told the Star.

Despite the stares, they insist it’s their only option.

Mpeketoni trader Diana Watuka dons a bra mask as she goes about her business on Sunday.
PROTECTION: Mpeketoni trader Diana Watuka dons a bra mask as she goes about her business on Sunday.
Image: CHETI PRAXIDES

“People look at us and think we are crazy but we are keeping safe from this disease. At least we are doing something to help ourselves since no one else is helping us,” she said.

Residents have called on the government to distribute free face masks.

Johnson Mbuthia of Bakanja in Mpeketoni said most people are walking around without masks, mainly because they cannot afford them.

“The government simply directed that masks not be sold beyond Sh20 but hasn't made an effort to monitor the situation. Traders are fleecing poor people." 

Edited by R.Wamochie