Ahimsa Fund thanks Friendship NGO and Dr. Mohammad Atiqullah Sayeed, Assistant General Manager, for sharing this information.
In the context of recent COVid-19 outbreak worldwide, the shock and awe of the pandemic 19 in Bangladesh have started being prominent from the middle of March 2020. With a dense population of 160 million and new cases doubling every 2-3 days, the market for health care & hygiene related logistics including face masks witnessed an instant supply gap. Gripped by fear, people rushed to buy masks in excessive quantities, which also lead to the price hike of the items. Supply was even worse in marginalized regions in the North and South of Bangladesh where Friendship works.
Parallel to the responsibility of providing standard Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Friendship’s Health workforce, the need of protective measures for our field level non-health staff and moreover for 6.5 million beneficiaries has been towering.
Wearing a mask and maintaining social distance are the key factors for reducing the probability of COVID19 transmission. Thus, being an adaptive and innovative NGO, Friendship decided to go for mass fabric mask production through “Nodi” (a Friendship Enterprise) immediately with an aim to meet the requirement of the community efficiently and effectively.
To implement the action the following process was followed:
Immediate production of 50,000 masks with subsequent distribution of another 150,000.
Though production would be done through “Nodi” it needed immediate coordination of different sectors of Friendship.
There would be two lines of production and distribution, in 2 different modalities.
- For production which will be distributed in areas beyond which they were being produced. AND
- Distribution at the area of production to the communities who were unable to buy due to difficulty of access or cost.
- For production Quick assessment was done to determine the capacity of
- Production facility of Nodi and its factories for mass scale fabric mask production
- Nodi or associated workers who had the capacity to sew.
- For distribution
- Friendship field-level community workers, the FCMs (health), FCPL (Paralegals) Teachers etc were identified by all the sectors of friendship, listed all over the country.
- They were then given the cut cotton fabrics with essentials to be sewn from their own homes for distribution to the communities
- Thus, based on the above assessment, a mapping exercise was done to pinpoint the of the facility and staff to be engaged in mask production
- And, the distribution list created
- Standards for design and quality for the masks were fixed
- Some strategies were drawn
- How and from where the cotton fabric will be procured
- How the precut fabrics will be transported to reach the sewing points
- How the finished products will be packed and transported to the distribution points
This is worth noting that all the above steps of the process have been carried out simultaneously which helped in devising an accurate action plan to implement the mass scale fabric mask production without losing any time.
Instructions and necessary orientation on technical aspects of mask production were delivered to the workers using online channels and over the telephone.
The first lot of masks were produced by the end of March 2020 and distributed accordingly
Thus, at one go field distribution was done and mass production of masks was made for distribution to other areas of the country. And people were safe and had possibilities of earning day wages on production.
The remote areas where mask production is ongoing
The production of masks is taking place in the north of Bangladesh at Chilmari and Char-Goynarpotol, of Kurigram District. Production of masks is ongoing in Gaibadha district as well. Our workers have taken the challenge to produce the masks in a short time. We have utilized our own fabrics, produced in our weaving centers and procured locally available quality cotton fabrics.
Ensuring standards of design and quality
For Friendship, standard design and quality are always important. Inspired by the standard design of Japanese masks, we have adapted the same process to produce a triple-layered cotton fabric mask. To ensure the quality recommendations from the Government of Bangladesh and WHO are being followed.
Taking every precaution
In the production facility, all the precautions were maintained as per guideline of WHO & Government of Bangladesh rules. Hand wash and disinfectant spray were compulsory before entry. All the employees had to put on their masks always. 6 feet distancing was compulsory.
Working together for more
As mask production is quite a long process comprising numerous steps like washing, cutting, ironing, rubber attachment, packaging etc. for reducing production, we have engaged our Community-based field level workers in the process.
Through an internal survey, it was found, the number of female workers having a hand sewing machine. Later the pre-cut mask fabrics were supplied, which were sewed by them & distributed to the community. To accelerate the process, pre-cut mask fabrics were transported simultaneously. Friendship field workers received payment for their work.
The fabric masks produced by Friendship are designated to be used by Friendship staff as well as the community members in the Friendship intervention areas. Fabric masks have been distributed amongst the marginalized and to those in high-hazard zones. In Dhaka city, the masks were provided as a part of the Friendship relief distribution campaign in the slums of Dhaka city.
Fabric masks produced by Friendship were also handed out to law enforcement personnel, and to the prisoners in the jail of Kurigram. In the remote locations, the masks were transported by boats and motorcycles.
Friendship has succeeded in carrying out mass production of masks within a very short time, with its existing workforce and mobilizing internal resources.