As COVID-19 continues to cast a shadow across the globe, UNMISS and national authorities in Wau, Western Bahr-el-Ghazal, have teamed up to launch a sewing programme with eight local women in a bid to produce cloth face masks.
The initiative, which is a joint undertaking by UNMISS peacekeepers from Bangladesh, the mission’s Gender Advisory Unit and Human Rights Division together with the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, was officially launched on 6 May 2020.
“Efforts such as these, in my opinion, are a step in the right direction and will make a noticeable difference in the availability of basic protective equipment for vulnerable people,” says Sam Muhumure, Head of Field Office, UNMISS Wau. “We can defeat this pandemic only if we unify our efforts,” he adds.
Mr. Muhumure’s views are echoed by the women participating in the initiative, many of whom are single mothers or widows. Take the case of young trainee, Rhoda William: “I leave my house early so that I am able to reach the training centre and start producing masks. I usually work till midday since I need to return home before the curfew imposed by our government. I know that the number of masks I manage to sew in a day is not a lot, but it gives me immense satisfaction that, in my own way, I’m doing whatever I can to help protect my country during this critical time.”
Face masks are a rare commodity in Wau but in current times they are a necessity that few can avoid. “While cloth face masks do not provide complete protection from this virus, at least they help mitigate some of the risks that South Sudanese people face when we are out and about. With the masks we are making, people can now cover their noses and mouths when they are in public areas. It reduces the threat to our families as well,” says Asunta Batista Awet, a trainee and a single mother to three children. The Ministry aims to distribute these masks free of cost to those who may be particularly vulnerable among the local communities.
For their part, UNMISS peacekeepers from Bangladesh are giving Rhoda, Asunta and their fellow participants the training they need to create these masks while also providing the materials required to produce at least 60 masks each in a day. “I would like to assure local authorities that we, as UNMISS, stand ready to support local interventions to prevent COVID-19 in whatever capacity we can,” says Colonel Hossan Motaher, Commanding Officer, Bangladesh Contingent.
This contribution is just one of the many awareness-raising efforts made by UNMISS in support of the national-led COVID-19 response. The mission is distributing tens of thousands of information leaflets and posters, running promo-trucks around the country, including Protection of Civilian sites, to educate people and, through its field offices, renovating hospitals and aiding the work of healthcare professionals by handing over much-needed medical supplies and ambulance services.
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan