Unilever East Africa has started local production of hand sanitisers through joint ventures to meet growing demand as part of its contribution to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The firm has teamed up with a number of local firms for local production of Lifebuoy hand sanitisers to boost demand amid shortage of mainstream brands in supermarkets.
The multinational reckons its supply of hand sanitisers has increased to over 200,000 pieces a month from about 10,000 pieces, which were imported from South Africa and India.
Some sanitisers will be sold while others will be offered for free to poor households under a Sh11.5 billion global plan by Unilever to curb spread of the pandemic.
“Through local production with third parties we have now ramped up supply capacity with priority being to ensure national consistent availability and targeting to donate to frontline health workers and vulnerable populations,” said Unilever East Africa in an e-mail response.
Unilever did not provide details of the joint venture pacts for local production of sanitisers including the third parties involved.
Health authorities say that washing hands is a key part of preventing the spread of viruses, but hand sanitiser gel can be used when soap and water are not available.
The coronavirus outbreak has triggered demand for sanitisers in what has seen a spike of prices and in some stores rationing of the commodity.
Kenya has so far confirmed 122 cases of the COVID-19 disease and its crucial tourism and farm exports businesses have already been hit by the impact of the outbreak.
Unilever together with Department for International Development (DfID) are behind the Sh11.5 billion funding, mainly targeted at developing countries like Kenya.
It will provide 20,000 hygiene products like Domestos bleach, Lifebuoy soap and sanitisers as well fund mass awareness campaign in TV, radio and print, social and digital media in Africa and Asia.
In Kenya, it will donate more than a half a million Lifebuoy products, 650 cases of iron fortified Royco cubes, Sunlight bar soaps and powder detergent.