UNMISS buys face masks produced by UN-trained internally displaced people in Bentiu

How can one make a living while at the same time contributing to the welfare of others in times of a global COVID-19 pandemic?

Angelina Nyalatna and four other internally displaced people in Bentiu found a solution: using skills provided by the United Nations Development Programme, they produce and sell affordable face masks, with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan being one of the main customers.

“We are saving lives with these face masks. Every day we produce at least 20 of them and can barely keep up with demands,” says 31-year-old Ms. Nyalatna at a handover ceremony of 700 face masks commissioned by the peacekeeping mission to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading in the Bentiu protection of civilians site.

She and her colleagues were inspired by the messages of COVID-19 awareness produced and in different ways distributed and aired by the UN family. These recommendations on frequent hand washing, physical distancing and the use of facial masks, combined with an income-generating initiative by the United Nations Development Programme, which taught participants various crafting skills, made Ms. Nyalatna spring into action.

“We deliver our products to the local market and to our partners, including the peacekeeping mission. The most important thing is not the 200 South Sudanese pounds [almost one dollar] that we make from each mask, but the fact that we are assisting in saving the lives of ourselves and others,” she says.

Products not bought by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan are purchased directly by local residents keen on playing their part in defeating the pandemic.

“These face masks are affordable, reliable and reusable. People can wash one while wearing another,” says Gabriel Mawich Jal, chairperson of the leadership in the Bentiu protection of civilians site, explaining the roaring success of the five tailors.

Overseeing the peacekeeping mission’s support to local authorities and cooperation with other partners engaged in the battle against the Coronavirus, Hiroko Hirahara, head of the UNMISS field office in Bentiu, is pleased with the practical results she has observed.

“The improvement of COVID-19 prevention measures in the protection site and in the larger cities where we have been most active, such as Bentiu, Leer and Pariang, is significant. Tailors have been engaged to produce face masks in all of these places, to complement our other efforts, including information materials, to keep the virus at bay,” she says.

Source: UN Mission in South Sudan