Returnees Produce Nose Masks to Support National COVID-19 Response
In Ghana, a group of returnees has started to produce nose masks under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. While this helps them to address the economic challenges the COVID-19 pandemic is posing on their livelihoods, they, at the same time, support the Government of Ghana in its national COVID-19 response and help people to protect themselves and others from the virus.
Eight returnees in the Greater Accra, Bono East, Central and Ashanti regions were trained on the standards of the Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana (FDA), and, together, produced 4,000 certified nose masks. The masks will be distributed in collaboration with IOM partners, such as the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), the European Union Delegation to Ghana, as well as Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in migration-prone communities in six regions (Western, Bono, Bono East, Ashanti, Ahafo, Northern regions). Other returnees are producing veronica buckets and hand sanitizers to further support the national COVID-19 response in their respective communities.
“The micro-businesses some of the returnees had established started suffering since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country,” explains Victoria Kankam, Reintegration Assistant at IOM Ghana. “IOM helped them to revamp their business activities, and they have found another source of income,” she adds.
Returnees, as part of their reintegration assistance, regularly receive counseling and training for business plan development, to be able to create livelihood opportunities and successfully reintegrate into their communities. It was evident that returnees in tailoring and fashion design could use their skills to create a new opportunity for themselves amid the pandemic.
Sherrynorth, a returnee who was in the process of establishing a second-hand clothing business just before COVID-19 hit the country, recounts: “During lockdown, I couldn’t go out and advertise my goods, and people couldn’t come to my place either. At that point, clothing was also not a priority for people, as they were mostly buying and stocking food.”
When presented with the opportunity, she decided to get into the production of nose masks: “At least I could also help save some lives out there,” she says.
To contain the spread of the virus in the country, the Government had made the wearing of nose masks mandatory in public in April. On 1 September 2020, air borders in Ghana reopened following closure due to the pandemic on 21 March 2020.
“For IOM Ghana, it is key to play our part at this crucial time when an increase in movements is expected. We continue to support the Government of Ghana in managing returns and reintegration of migrants, as well as in its COVID-19 response and recovery plans. Thus, this initiative helps address the socio-economic challenges returnees are experiencing due to the pandemic and ensures their reintegration process is sustainable, while also contributing to keeping communities safe,” says Abibatou Wane-Fall, IOM Ghana Chief of Mission.
The production of nose masks complements IOM’s awareness-raising activities, as the masks are being distributed during community outreach sessions, informing the population about the dangers of irregular migration, the need to protect ourselves and others during the pandemic, as well as the importance to show solidarity and not stigmatize migrants and COVID-19 victims.
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For more information, please contact Juliane Reissig, Public Information Officer at IOM Ghana, at JREISSIG@iom.int.