Feature: Kenyans embrace e-gifting as COVID-19 pandemic curtails visits, parties

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, July 12, 2020
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NAIROBI, July 11 (Xinhua) -- About two months ago, Victoria Selima's neighbor on the east of Nairobi, Kenya's capital, delivered a baby boy.

The news was shared in a social media group they belong to and tens of congratulatory messages were sent to her.

Normally, the new mother would have then started to receive delegations of visitors to gift her and the baby.

This is a tradition that relatives and friends of new mothers in the east African nation have practiced for eons, with gifts ranging from clothes, cash to food items to enable the mother to recover faster and produce more milk.

One delegation would comprise up to 10 people and the visits would last for months and even up to years as the baby grows.

But this is no longer happening -- at least in large-scale due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Selima, a government auditor, and her friends collected cash via mobile money and sent it to their neighbor despite their houses being in a radius of about 100 meters.

This is the new normal currently in Kenya as citizens embrace e-gifting in the fight against COVID-19.

The electronic gifts are not only being sent when a child is born but also for baby showers done for expectant mothers and for those marking birthdays.

They have helped minimize chances of contracting the disease or spreading it in when people congregate.

"It is currently the only way to maintain the culture. It would be disastrous if you insist on visiting a new mother or attending a birthday party then you contract COVID-19 there. We will do more visits when the pandemic is contained," said Selima.

For Kenyans, e-gifting has been eased by widespread use of mobile money, and with transactions of up to 1,000 shillings (about 9.4 U.S. dollars) having been made free to encourage electronic payments.

"I last month celebrated my birthday alone at home. It was somehow lonely but the cash I received on my phone warmed up the day. I bought myself gifts," said university student Brian Kimeli.

But even as citizens embrace e-gifting, there has been a rise in the number of infants who have contracted COVID-19, what Ministry of Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe blamed on some people insisting on visiting the newborns and their mothers.

Kagwe noted that physical visits expose the new mother and her infant to the virus. The youngest infant who has contracted the disease in the east African nation is a six-week-old baby.

"We discourage some of these practices that include visiting a mother to welcome the newborn. This is not the time to do this," said Kagwe in Thursday's briefing on the disease.

He called for the use of electronic gifts as COVID-19 infections surge in Kenya to 9,726 on Saturday.

"Use your phone to send that money as a gift. It is safer and convenient and by doing so, you don't risk your life, and that of the mother and the newborn," he said.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution, a software development start-up in Nairobi, said the electronic transactions have come as a savior during the pandemic.

"E-gifting not only keeps one safe but also helps to eliminate the guilt of failing to give a gift when one is marking important occasions yet they may have gifted you. With e-gifting, one cannot claim that they didn't visit or give a gift due to the pandemic hence good relationships are maintained," he said. Enditem

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