As cases of COVID-19 increase in Ghana and supplies of face masks dwindle globally, one NGO is collaborating with an international network to create fabric face masks quickly for those in need.
American Renae Adam watched local and international orders plummet for the Fairtrade clothing and household goods she sells through a social enterprise in Ghana. But she also followed the increasing global concerns about shortages of face masks.
This inspired Adam and a growing network she is working with both in Ghana and internationally to sew and supply washable and reusable face masks, made from Ghana's colorful, printed cotton.
Adam is a co-founder of Global Mamas, an NGO encouraging women to support themselves by creating goods in Ghana that are mostly sold to overseas markets.
Speaking via a messaging app, Adam said the fabric masks are not medical grade, but she believes they can play a part in protecting users, especially when medical masks are in short supply.
"This complete change in focus to fabric face mask production has brought everyone together with a single focus — to produce as many masks as possible," she said. "It's all-hands-on-deck and we are already training bead assemblers and weavers in order to prepare the ties for the masks, in order to make the sewing portion for the skilled seamstresses more efficient."
Aside from helping to keep people safe, Adam said a top priority for her was to keep the women who work for Global Mamas earning an income so they can support their families and communities.
Elizabeth Adams, a sewing instructor and technical designer for Global Mamas, said she and her colleagues are happy to be part of the initiative.
"We are sustaining livelihoods here, so instead of just letting 400 women or so go home, then they get something to do, we still have them around, so we are sustaining the economy in a certain way," she said, speaking to VOA via a messaging app.
Other organizations have also been quick to join the initiative, both in Ghana and across the globe.
Joseph Addo-Yobo, the executive director of Ghanaian health nonprofit Total Family Health, will help make the masks available through its supply chains in Ghana. He said he is pleased to support a local solution that relies on local resources for a local market.
"It will also reduce the lead times that it will take for these commodities to become available in country because it is locally produced, and you know in these times, time is of great essence, so any delay in the supply chain would have dire consequences," he said via a messaging app.
Ayesha Bedwei, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana, said the organization is planning to tell their member companies about the project so they, too, can support it, Adam said.
Global Mamas said it has samples of the masks ready and will seek approval from Ghanaian authorities to get them out into the nation.
Adam hopes that initiatives like this, and the fast actions of Ghana's government to date on combating COVID-19, will see Ghana become "an African success story" in stamping out the coronavirus.