The Burundian refugee cleaning soap maker who’s combating coronavirus in Kenya – NewsEverything Africa

By Fernando Duarte
BBC World Service

Innocent Havyariama is seen bottling some soap

picture copyrightUNHCR

picture captionHarmless Havyarimana lowered the costs of his merchandise when the pandemic struck

When Harmless Havyarimana began his soap-making enterprise in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp in early 2015, he was attempting to maneuver on from the traumatic occasions that had made him flee his native Burundi a 12 months earlier.

Little did he know that his cottage enterprise would turn into a serious weapon within the battle towards coronavirus in one of many world’s largest settlements of its sort – Kakuma is house to virtually 200,000 individuals.

As quickly as the previous chemistry scholar realised the significance of hand-washing in tackling the unfold of Covid-19, he lowered costs and began to supply his merchandise in smaller portions and sizes, to make them extra inexpensive.

“Everybody wants cleaning soap however not everyone is ready to afford it. So I lowered the costs, because it was extra vital to guard individuals than to consider revenue,” the 35-year-old tells the BBC.

“I needed to improve my manufacturing by 75% to satisfy the demand when the pandemic began, so Covid-19 has been good for my enterprise.

“However I made certain I gave free cleaning soap to susceptible individuals such because the aged and the disabled.”

picture copyrightGetty Pictures
picture captionKakuma, in north-west Kenya, is without doubt one of the world’s largest refugee camps, internet hosting virtually 200,000 individuals

Mr Havyarimana’s initiative has been praised by the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee company, which frequently highlights the contribution of refugee entrepreneurs to their host communities.

“The refugees are enjoying a pivotal function in serving to comprise the unfold of Covid-19 in Kakuma,” Eujin Byun, a spokesperson for UNHCR in Kenya tells the BBC.

“They helped in some ways, from disseminating details about the virus to serving to individuals take the mandatory measures.”

‘Taking care of one another’

She added that she was not shocked by Mr Havyarimana’s choice to decrease costs.

“Refugees are very community-oriented and they’re going to take care of one another. They’ve beforehand stepped up and helped us do our jobs in conditions like that.”

Mr Havyarimana at present employs 42 individuals in his enterprise, named Glap Industries – quick for God Loves All Folks. The majority of the employees are refugees however 18 are Kenyans from the city of Kakuma.

Glap provides native companies and establishments outdoors the camp and even reduction businesses.

picture copyrightHarmless Havyariama
picture captionHarmless Havyarimana is eager to mentor different camp residents

“The businesses purchase my soaps to divulge to refugees who can’t afford them and for their very own employees too,” the Burundian proudly notes.

Mr Havyarimana is just not the one native cleaning soap service provider, however he doesn’t concern the competitors, and in reality presents lessons to show individuals find out how to make cleansing merchandise.

“I wish to mentor girls and youthful individuals to allow them to have a possibility to turn into self-reliant and enhance their lives like I did,” he says.

“I wish to assist the neighborhood in any means I can.”

Efforts like his might have helped preserve Covid-19 at bay in Kakuma.

The newest UNHCR figures, relationship from 24 December, present that there had been 341 confirmed circumstances with 19 individuals below medical care. There have been 10 deaths from the virus.

Kenya has registered practically 100,000 circumstances nationally, with round 1,700 deaths, well being ministry figures present.

picture copyrightGetty Pictures
picture captionBurundians fled their properties in massive numbers within the wake of violence and instability that started in 2015

Political instability and violence have compelled greater than 300,000 individuals to flee Burundi to neighbouring African nations within the final decade, in response to the UNHCR.

Mr Havyarimana was in the midst of his chemistry research on the College of Burundi when he left. He says his life was in peril and that he was receiving dying threats from family of his late mom, who additionally seized his house.

After arriving in Kakuma, he needed to earn a living for himself, reasonably than counting on humanitarian help.

‘No thought find out how to make cleaning soap’

The camp sits in an remoted and arid area the place the supply of fundamental companies is a problem for reduction businesses.

Exploring the area, Mr Havyarimana seen there was not a cleaning soap manufacturing unit, which meant that cleansing merchandise needed to be introduced from elsewhere.

“I had no thought of find out how to make cleaning soap, so I began browsing the online for some information,” he explains.

picture copyrightHarmless Havyariama
picture captionHarmless Havyarimana is now passing on his information of cleaning soap making by organising workshops

He later enrolled in a soap-making course supplied by the World Lutheran Federation help company, and with a mortgage from a former classmate in Burundi, he began the enterprise alongside two helpers.

He additionally obtained grants from reduction businesses together with the UNHCR and NGOs such because the African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC), which says it has supported extra then 18,000 refugee entrepreneurs.

‘Lifeline for the neighborhood’

“Harmless’s story reveals how refugees can contribute to their host communities in quite a few methods,” Julienne Oyler, the AEC’s chair, tells the BBC.

“Camps like Kakuma are so remoted that entrepreneurs like him are a lifeline to fundamental items and companies at a time of lockdowns and different restrictions.”

A 2018 World Financial institution examine recognized over 2,000 companies in Kakuma and estimated that they contributed greater than $50m (£37m) to the native financial system yearly.

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Michelle Richey, a lecturer in know-how and entrepreneurship on the UK’s Loughborough College specialising in refugee enterprise ventures, says individuals like Mr Havyarimana are very import in altering the overall notion of refugees.

“The human potential inside refugees reveals after we give them probabilities to work as a substitute of simply specializing in humanitarian points,” she says.

“We will help these individuals have some management of their lives once more in spite of everything they’ve been via.”

Beginning a thriving enterprise is just not the one change in Mr Havyarimana’s life since arriving in Kakuma. In 2017, he married Aline, a fellow Burundian refugee he met on the camp.

They’ve two sons, and the youngest one, Prince, was born in late November.


Mr Havyarimana speaks with fondness about life in Kenya however he goals of being resettled in Australia or Canada.

“I like Kakuma so much, however I wish to give my spouse and youngsters a greater life,” he says.

Within the meantime, Mr Havyarimana is specializing in increasing his methods to assist the neighborhood, and in addition to providing 21 sorts of cleaning soap and cleansing merchandise, he has devised a hand sanitiser created from aloe vera grown in a patch simply outdoors his workshop.

“Coronavirus has affected the entire world however for us right here in Kakuma, it has made it much more vital that we clear our palms in any we will,” he says.

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