Has masking been forgotten for children?
Published on: August 11, 2021 03:29 (EAT)
By now everyone knows a face mask is a must have as required by the law and anybody found without one is arrested and liable to a fine of Ksh.20,000. Despite having different types of masks and everyone wearing whatever they like, however, there are some groups in the country that are forgotten. Children and even people living with hearing and speech impairments have been neglected and forced to use masks in the same way as everyone else. Fatma Juma is a grandmother of two and every day is a daunting task for her granddaughter who is in kindergarten in Changamwe area of Mombasa County. She says that the masks provided by the government are for adults so often her 4-year-old granddaughter has to wear them even though they are not her size, as getting children’s masks is difficult and expensive. “The masks issue is really a challenge especially for young children, I have my 4 year old granddaughter who goes to kindergarten and its difficult getting a mask of her size because they are expensive, so am forced to use the ones donated to adults I just tie a knot for it to fit her so that she is able to go to school because I don’t have money to buy for her size,” she says. It is an issue that Sonia Ali a resident of Chaani Mombasa who is the mother to Sumeiya Swaleh says that her daughter often does not want a big mask saying it bothers her. Swaleh a Preprimary 1 pupil complains to her mother whenever she gets home from school as the explains. “There is a problem of getting mask her size because it is expensive like Ksh.50 compared to adults mask which is just 10 shillings, I can’t get 50 shillings life is hard nowadays so I prefer buying for Ksh.10 I just tie a knot to tighten it so that it fits her but the teacher complains she removes it every time,” says Sonia Ali. This makes her worried as a parent about the health of her child getting infected with coronavirus if they don’t wear a mask properly. It is a problem that even the country’s governor’s council recognizes that there is a shortage of children’s masks because most donors distribute masks meant for adults. In a speech on coronavirus infection in May this year, council chairman Martin Wambora acknowledged the problem of shortage of masks for young children. At Brightways Academy Magongo majority of pupils here are under the age of 7 playing with each other taking advantage of the break. Hudaa Suleiman is a teacher and explains some of the challenges as teachers face when these young pupils wear masks that are not of their size. “A child comes with a mask in the morning but removes it and says that it’s tight , I can’t breathe properly, at times the mask is the same so when they remove it ,they start fighting over the mask , so parents come the next day and start complaining about the masks,” she explains. Health experts say that the use of masks that do not fit the children puts them at risk of infection as it does not properly cover the nose and mouth as it should. Pauline Oginga is the chief public health officer in Mombasa County. She says when you give a child an adult mask it can’t fit them, and if it doesn’t fit well it leaves spaces so they are not fully protected, so we encourage parents to buy a child mask for a child for full protection. Oginga advises parents to make masks that will be fit their children in case the parent is unable to afford them. You can even use the sewed mask for children as long as it’s a 3 layered mask so that it gives protection, it’s also good for them because they can use it for long especially for the school going ones its expensive when you use surgical mask because it cannot be recycled but for the sewn ones as long as you wash them properly they are good to go.” Bernadette Wamboi is a tailor among a group of women who sew masks for children in Mwembeni Bamburi area of Mombasa County. She says that many parents rush for the masks due to its convenience. mostly she sews children masks especially now that schools are open the demand is very high for those in kindergarten and secondary the materials mask is safe for children that’s why most parents prefer. She says that she can sew up to 100 masks a day depending on the needs of the parents and students. “Most parents want the material mask because they are cheap and I sew them with a lot of enthusiasm because I want to protect our kids.” In addition parents like Shamsa Mohammed who is a mother of three primary and kindergarten children is very appreciative of these sewing masks saying they are children safe because they are unique and they use materials of different colours and hence children don’t complain it’s too tight especially on the nose and even it doesn’t hurt their ears because the material is soft they can breathe well I just love them .She also saves money when using them. “I will continue using these masks because you use it several times before it gets old, you just have to wash and dry it properly,” she excitedly says.