By Chidera Okeke, Global Mamas Community Outreach Specialist.
For the past 17 years, Global Mamas has progressed in its mission to create a life of prosperity for women across Ghana by creating and selling handmade fair trade products. The upsurge of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a derailment in the organization’s activities and threatened to displace the livelihoods of 330 women. Faced with this dilemma, the Global Mamas’ community of self-sufficient and creative innovators have channeled the organization’s resources to make standard protective face masks, effectively helping to slow the spread of the virus and keep the Global Mamas’ community of women earning income despite business challenges.
The mask-making project is supported by the USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) Program, which also played a key role in Global Mamas launching their new line of eco-friendly water hyacinth product, Fibers of Change. Through this new initiative, Global Mamas expects to produce nearly 20,000 protective cloth masks to be distributed to under-resourced health facilities in high-risk communities, including Old Fadama, Ashaiman, Madina, Agloboshie, and Nima. Hospitals in these and other communities in Ghana are experiencing shortages of N95 respirator masks despite donations to the Ghana Ministry of Health from the World Health Organization and other donors.
Fortunately, healthcare professionals can use fabric face masks like the ones Global Mamas is producing to cover their N95 respirator masks and give them a longer life as the fabric masks can be washed and reused. Recently approved by the Ghana Food and Drug Authority (FDA), the fabric masks can also be worn in public when physical distancing is difficult or at home while caring for sick family members. The masks have been shown to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 from an infected person, even if asymptomatic, through speech, cough, or sneeze.
“We feel so grateful to be working on this project,” said Mallory Savisaar, Global Mamas’ Fibers of Change project manager. “Not only are we able to preserve the livelihood of several hundred women in the middle of an economic downturn, but there is a collective pride we share knowing that we are working together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Ghana.”
Global Mamas’ three-ply, high-quality, long-lasting fabric face masks are made with two layers of Global Organic Textile Standard-certified organic cotton and a layer of stiffening in the center. The masks are being made in Global Mamas’ Cape Coast and Akuse production centers under strict hygienic and social distancing rules. The “Mamas” have been split into different teams (piece cutting, sewing, finishing, quality control, and packaging) to increase efficiency. An infographic made from Global Mamas’ water hyacinth paper is attached to every mask produced, detailing steps for effective mask usage and care.
Thus far, 8,890 masks have been made and distributed to local communities currently working with Global Mamas in the Akuse area. The project has also garnered support from corporate bodies. One such group, Total Family Health Organization, offered to use their ties with various health facilities in the country to boost the distribution of the masks.
“Total Family Health Organization, as a local non-profit organization, is pleased to support local manufacturing capacity in this manner, said Demi Duah, the organization’s technical director. “Through our collaboration with Global Mamas, these FDA-approved face masks will be made readily available to the Ghanaian populace, thereby supporting in reducing the spread of coronavirus.”
As the pandemic spreads across the country, there is an urgency in ensuring that these masks are readily available to frontline health workers and the most at-risk members of the country. Samples have been sent to some health facilities in Ghana and Global Mamas has received positive reviews. Major strides have been taken to ensure that increased effort is applied to meet the project’s objectives by the end of June. Three-ply face masks are available for purchase at Global Mamas’ store in Osu, Accra. Two-ply masks with filter pocket (filter not included) may be purchased by international supporters through the Global Mamas website.