Hand Sanitizer, the New Household Name

Woman using sanitizer at home

Fighting Coronavirus – Covid-19 has become a global concern and with 75 cases since mid last month, Rwanda is also very much concerned.

Despite the country being under lockdown since March 21, some businesses remained operational because they provide essential goods and services that people need to keep life going.

Shops and markets that sell exclusively food and hygienic equipment, banks, pharmacies, health centers and hospitals, petrol stations among other indispensable services are still open.

Prior to asking for a service, one has to wash hands from a container that was locally named ‘Kandagira Ukarabe’ a hand made machine which facilitates the shop visitors to wash hands by using their foot to handle the tap.

At the reception, a staff uses sanitizer

This is safe because the hands do not get in contact with the machine.

In the Prime Minister’s directives released ealy March Rwandans were urged to avoid shaking hands or hugging, to stay sanitized and avoid traditionally accepted greeting involving heavy contact including hugging, pecking among other forms.

It has become a common trend to see citizens routinely washing hands with soap and water from dispensers and water tabs, while others and quite a larger number in a public place use hand sanitizers to stay safe.

This has seen an increase in demand and prices of sanitary products especially hand sanitizers which are used in areas where essential businesses are operating and for some individuals who can afford sanitizers.

Visitors of these shops and service providers suggest that after the first case recorded on March 14, 2020, they have learned the importance of washing hands and using hand sanitizers as a way of staying safe.

Their only concern, is the cost of sanitizers.

“For example a sanitizer which used to cost Rwf2000 is now at Rwf3000 and we have no choice but to buy it,” said Charles Hakizimana, a resident of Kigali.

The demand for sanitizers has grown according to some supermarkets and pharmacies where these products are commonly found.

Some businesses hang sanitizers at the entry for public use

Regis Nsanzimana, the Chief pharmacist at Teta Pharmacy in Remera, Kigali city said that the demand has tilted their business focus from the core business of selling medicine.

“We used to sell only three sanitizers a day but now we sell over 100 pieces a day, which would sound like we are diverting from our business model of selling medication, but the new move is clear; sanitizers are needed these days than ever,” Nsanzimana said.

In shopping areas like Horebu Supermarket, Alexis Nsanzimana, the store manager says that the sanitizer stocks have run down because of the shortage of supply from Sulfo Rwanda industries – the main producer of jelly based sanitizers in Rwanda.

Sulfo Rwanda Industries Managing Director, Hariharan Dharmarajan said the demand is high as individual companies, families and public institutions need sanitizers.

This businessman, however, blamed retailers for creating an unnecessary hike in price.

“The problem is that the pharmacies and other outlets are taking exorbitant margin while retailing. They buy from us for Rwf 550 per piece of 50 ml and sell it for Rwf3000 and above, per piece, which is not fair at all,” Dharmarajan said in an email.

Sulfo boss said that though they want to reach all common citizens, they too find it difficult working on a mode of 25 % workforce and as other manufacturers in neighboring countries, to make the 500 ml bottles as the dispensing pumps are not available.

As demand for sanitizer product increases, local scientist Nelly Aline Uwineza, CEO of Tropical Brewery and Winery has also ventured into the production of natural hand sanitizers to feed the domestic market, with a capacity to produce 400 litres per day, and a target of up to 1,000 litres per day.

In the midst of this shortage of hand sanitizers, Adolf Ndikubwimana from the fight against COVID-19  task force and university lecturer said that it is important to stick to washing hands, and only use sanitizers as additional protection if available.




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