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Young Kenyan Brothers Ease COVID-19 Mask and Clean Water Shortages

Journalists who step out of their high-floor offices or manage to escape from their coronavirus confinement sometimes find a great story right on the street below.

Such was the story discovered by Kevin Phillips Momanyi, a reporter with Kenya’s Tuko news channel. His piece, titled the “Unsung Heroes such as of the Majengo slums,” profiled two young men — electrical engineers — who constructed a mobile one-stop shop powered by a motorbike to provide clean water for hand sanitizing along with plastic masks, specifically for the inhabitants of the Majengo slum — the street kids and their families — for the affordable price of zero!

The motorbike, belonging to Abubakar Mariam and Dennis Omondi Mariam, drew a crowd of admiring young people. “Wow! His creativity is on another level,” says a young man in a baseball cap speaking to Momanyi. A small TV set attached to the bike drew admiring whistles and shouts of “Big Up man!”

Atop the bike, with its water can, faucet, motor and TV set, sat a sign from the Ministry of Water and Sanitation urging youths to “Please Wash your Hands Thoroughly to Reduce the Spread of Corona Virus Covid-19!!!”

The brothers also found a way to make a plastic shield mask from scratch in about 5 minutes that fits snugly around the head.

Majengo is one of Kenya’s oversized slums. The sprawling and congested settlement is home to more than a hundred thousand people. Like many other slums in the city, water shortages are frequent, sanitation is mostly non-existent and the blockage of trenches that carry open sewage is a daily sight.  Pungent smells emanating from open sewers fill the air and heaps of garbage litters the narrow streets

When the taps run dry, which happens often, Majengo residents have to buy water from vendors or go to neighboring settlements for water.

Despite yearly official promises, only 9 out of 55 public water service providers in Kenya provide continuous water supply, leaving people to find their own ways of searching for appropriate solutions to these basic needs.

Meanwhile, reporter Momanyi, still stuck on the question, asked again, how can you do this for no money? “I’m an electrical engineer,” replied Abubakar. “I have many ways to get income. I don’t think about tomorrow. God is there for tomorrow!”

Global Information Network creates and distributes news and feature articles on current affairs in Africa to media outlets, scholars, students and activists in the U.S. and Canada.

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