Trained Somali tailors in Dadaab are using their skills at the sewing machine to make enough fabric face masks to give one to every refugee in the camps in northeastern Kenya.
Yusuf Abdirahman Hussein, 23, stopped his regular tailoring jobs in late April to focus on sewing masks to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus among the refugee population.
He is among a group of 70 men and women trained in tailoring in Hagardhera, Ifo and Dhagahley refugee camps in Dadaab, who feel it is their duty to do their part to contain the pandemic.
“The refugees cannot afford to buy masks, so to prevent the spread of the virus we came up with the idea of making face masks to distribute for free,” Yusuf told Radio Ergo.
The fabric and small stipends for the tailors is being provided by aid organisations operating in the camps, including Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Danish Refugee Council, AVSI, FilmAid, and the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR.
The tailors receive 100 Kenya shillings (roughly one dollar) for every 10 masks they make. Yusuf says they are satisfied with this little amount because they are not in it for the money, but to help their community.
The masks need to be sewn with three layers of cloth to be effective for use. They are washable and reusable.
“It’s tough work to make the product meet the health standards, so we focus on making just 100 to 300 pieces per day,” Yusuf told Radio Ergo.
Abdullahi Hassan Ali, 45, is making masks alongside his two sons, whom he trained in tailoring. The boys are helping him instead of sitting idle in the house now that their school has been closed due to the Coronavirus lockdown.
“The community is very appreciative for the help because they are poor refugees confined to restricted spaces and with little means to purchase the masks on their own,” he said.
Abdullahi told Radio Ergo that he learned his tailoring skills in Mogadishu and received further enhanced training in Dadaab years ago under a programme run by LWF.
Fadumo Iman Mukhtar, 40, said she is making the face masks at her home whilst taking care of her children.
“My sewing machine was idle before, but now I’m busy with it and it feels good to help the community while at the same time earning some income,” she said.
Fadumo came to the Dadaab refugee camps in 2011 after fleeing her hometown of Dinsor in Bay region. She was trained as a tailor by NRC.
NRC coordinator at the refugee camps, Ahmed Mohamed Salad, told Radio Ergo that they have set a target of making 300,000 face masks so that all the refugees in Dadaab will get one free. So far, they have made 150,000 masks and have already distributed 49,133 among the refugee community.