Masks for Darfur: co-production in Sudan to tackle the pandemic

In structurally weak regions, like Darfur in western Sudan, COVID-19 is a threat to the already struggling economy. Local craftspeople are now receiving support from the capital.

The streets of the otherwise lively and dusty Sudanese capital city of Khartoum lie empty in the midday heat. However, on the isolated outskirts of Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, the sewing machines are whirring day in, day out – even at the weekend. Because this is where masks are being fervently produced to protect craftspeople in Darfur in the west of the country.

In Darfur, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is acting on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to promote employment for refugees, internally displaced persons and local people. Almost 1.9 million internally displaced people and refugees live in the region. To achieve this goal, GIZ is now also investing in quick solutions in the private sector in the fight against the pandemic. As part of this, the project is supporting the local production of masks in Sudan. 150 women and 50 men are currently working in shifts on the outskirts of Khartoum to produce 500,000 masks. Around half of the employees come from war-torn areas of the country, including Darfur. Keen to address the general shortage of masks and the impending lockdown, young entrepreneur Safiya Abdelrahman decided a month ago to switch from producing fabric tote bags to making masks. Four other sewing factories joined her, securing 200 jobs in the process. 

The masks are transported to Darfur by the chamber of skilled crafts and trades. The first delivery of 150,000 masks arrived on time at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The masks are distributed to members of the chamber of skilled crafts and trades as part of a campaign to raise awareness about hygiene measures and social distancing rules. The aim is to enable small businesses to continue their work during the pandemic and ensure their economic survival. But this is also vital in order to safeguard long-term prospects for companies and businesses in Darfur too. 

Seamstress Maisoon’s bright eyes hint at the smile under her mask: ‘I’m proud that our masks will also protect craftspeople doing their work in Darfur. And I’m now able to keep my job and continue going work even during the lockdown.’

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