The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting training for women, mostly widowed or otherwise made vulnerable by the Boko Haram insurgency, to produce facemasks to help protect the population from the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria’s conflict-affected northeast.
According to the agency, after an initial round of training by professional tailors, about 200 women in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, were able to produce 4,000 masks in a week’s time from Ankara, a traditional fabric of the region.
The training has helped facilitate local production and encourage the use of masks among the general population, the agency stated.
USAID said the colorful wax-print masks were produced in sizes for adults and children and in various layered designs.
The first batch of masks was presented to the Borno State government for distribution to the public on April 27, at the popular Monday market in Maiduguri where the use of face masks has been mandated. Individuals who visited the market that day were provided with a free facemask.
It added that on April 23, a delegation of Borno state officials, including commissioners of Women’s Affairs and Social Development and Transport, and officials from the state Incidence and Prevention Control’s COVID-19 committee visited the women at the vocational training center, where they gave their approval of the quality of facemasks produced and applauded the women’s efforts to control the spread of the pandemic.
“We commend this initiative to provide our people with these washable and reusable masks for their health and safety,” said Zuwaira Gambo, Borno’s Commissioner of Women’s Affairs and Social Development.
“This programme economically empowers widows and vulnerable women during the lockdown, and the masks help encourage people to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
The agency said the training was implemented through USAID’s Nigeria Lake Chad Basin (NLCB) programme, and future planned trainings would focus on the production of Ankara shoes and bags, as well as food processing.
NCLB, reportedly, designed this activity well before the COVID-19 outbreak and refocused the training to respond to the urgent pandemic response in Borno.
With training, additional cohorts of women are anticipated to produce another 50,000 masks in the coming weeks.