Net gains: Thai project turns fishing nets into virus protection gear

A worker prepares old fishing nets for recycling to create products such as protective gear against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Saint Louis Plas Mold factory in Ayutthaya province, Thailand, June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Juarawee Kittisilpa

RAYONG/AYUTTHAYA, Thailand, – Thai fisherman Anan Jaitang used to pile tattered nylon fishing nets on the beach after hauls of wriggling crabs tore them beyond repair, but most of the nets wound up in the sea, threatening to entangle turtles and choke coral reefs.

Now, Anan and others have an alternative that’s not only lucrative and environmentally friendly but will help Thailand battle the coronavirus pandemic.

A new community-based project is paying small-scale fishermen 10 baht (32 cents) per kilogram of discarded nets, or about every one or two, to recycle them into items from push sticks to face shields and disinfectant bottles.

“If no one bought my fishing nets, they would just pile up like a mountain,” says Anan, who goes through about 36 nets every quarter, fishing in the east coast province of Rayong.

He is among more than 100 artisanal fishermen from four coastal villages in Thailand’s east and south to have joined the project, run by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).

With 50,000 small fishing vessels and 10,000 commercial ships, Thailand has one of the world’s largest fishing industries, and is also one of its top marine plastic polluters.

Hundreds of endangered sea animals wash up on Thailand’s shores every year. About 74% of sea turtles and 89% of dugongs stranded on the beaches between 2015 and 2017 had been injured by nets left or lost in oceans, official Thai figures show.

About 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets end up in the ocean globally every year, becoming “ghost gear,” the United Nations says.

NET GAINS

In addition to tackling Thailand’s stubborn pollution problem, the project offers a rare all-domestic solution to a global challenge.

Thai design company Qualy is buying most of the fishing nets being collected by EJF.

Its recycling and manufacturing operations are based in Thailand, unlike similar projects in other countries that ship nets abroad for recycling.

Workers at Qualy’s recycling factory in the central city of Ayutthaya wash the nets before feeding them into a shredder that yields blue nylon granules to be mixed with colourants and melted down in product moulds.

During the pandemic, Qualy has shredded 700 kg (1,500 lbs) of nets to make face shields, alcohol spray bottles and push sticks for elevator buttons and ATM machines to avoid contact.

“We’ve sold over 100,000 push sticks already during the coronavirus pandemic,” said marketing director Thosaphol Suppametheekulwat.

He declined to give financial details but confirmed the net recycling operation was profitable, with sales in Europe, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“Buying the nets supports the fishers’ livelihoods, and we can make new products out of them,” Thosaphol said. “It’s even better when it also helps save our environment.”

HELPING HANDS

The Thai government has welcomed the initiative.

“Any efforts to remove the nets from the ecosystem is welcome,” said Ukkrit Satapoomin, the director of Thailand’s Office of Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation.

EJF said the project had collected more than 1.3 tonnes of used nets since a pilot phase two months ago, and plans to expand it to all seaside provinces by year-end.

“It’s really important and urgent that we tackle this problem,” said campaigner Ingpat Pakchairatchakul.

“Local communities are very environmentally-conscious already, but they just need helping hands from other sectors.”

For Anan, the fisherman, the project has not only brought extra income, but put a smile on his face at the thought that his trash contributes to a worthy cause.

“I’ve seen the products, and I’m proud of my materials,” he said, after seeing a push stick made from recycled nets.

“At least it helps the society and saves the environment.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200702095811-rnap8/

‘Shocking’ abuse of migrants forced to pick strawberries in Spain, U.N. says

Workers dust strawberries during harvest at a farm in Palos de la Frontera, southwest Spain February 27, 2009. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

BARCELONA, – Spain must urgently protect thousands of women brought over from Morocco as essential workers to pick strawberries during the new coronavirus pandemic in abysmal conditions and without basic hygiene, a United Nations rapporteur said on Wednesday.

About 3,000 Moroccan women travel to Spain, which provides more than half of Europe’s fruit and vegetables, to harvest strawberries in southern Huelva province each year, despite decades of complaints of exploitation, unpaid wages and abuse.

“These workers have been deliberately put at risk during the pandemic,” said Olivier De Schutter, who became the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in March.

“Poor housing conditions, overcrowded settlements, poor access to water and sanitation … no ventilation of work spaces … absence of cleaning of any surfaces or objects – this is the most shocking,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

De Schutter said the situation amounted to forced labour, as the migrant women were coerced to work in unsafe conditions that violated international human rights standards and domestic laws.

A spokeswoman for the ministry of labour and social economy said that it was inspecting the working conditions of migrant agricultural workers across Spain, regardless of their country of origin.

“The Inspectorate of Labour and Social Security, an autonomous agency of the Ministry of Labour and Social Economy, has programmed a specific campaign for this year, as with previous years, to check working conditions,” she said.

“The Inspectorate applies the regulation for the protection of workers’ rights with the forcefulness that the situation requires in each case.”

GARDEN OF EUROPE

Morocco and Spain signed an agreement in 2001, granting women temporary visas to harvest fruit in Spain, promising much higher wages than they could earn at home in north Africa.

“Morocco is very much at fault for not diligently ensuring that the workers’ rights are met,” De Schutter said, adding that the strawberry pickers in Huelva were “just one example of a widespread phenomenon in Spain”.

Last year, 10 Moroccan women filed a lawsuit claiming they had been trafficked, assaulted and exploited while picking strawberries in Huelva. It has yet to reach a verdict.

Eight rights groups lodged an appeal with the U.N. last month, asking it to investigate the conditions for Moroccan migrants on Spanish farms working without gloves, masks or social distancing protections against COVID-19.

“Many consumers depend on Spain – it really is the garden of Europe – and yet a large proportion of our fruit and vegetables come from workers living in these substandard conditions,” said De Schutter, a Belgian legal scholar.

The women migrants – many of whom had left their children behind in Morocco – systematically did unpaid overtime, yet as seasonal workers were completely powerless, he said.

“These women are misinformed about what they can expect in Spain. Obviously they don’t speak Spanish and they are not able to stand up for their rights as they cannot form unions,” De Schutter said. “They are very vulnerable to being exploited.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200701174043-qljpu/

Urgency of Changing Food Systems

More than ever, covid 19 has created or deepened awareness of the importance and safety of producing and consuming locally. This awareness has increased a growing global consensus on the need to reform food systems to achieve sustainable development goals. From this perspective, agro-ecology is central to the fact that it contributes to the achievement of many sustainable development goals. It enables agricultural production to be increased where necessary and contributes to the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty in rural areas. It also helps to combat environmental degradation, reduce greenhouse gases and adapt agriculture to climate change.

There are many major social and environmental challenges related to the way we produce, process and consume food. Despite abundant food production, hunger and malnutrition in the world are increasing. Agroecological approaches can play an important role in ensuring food and nutrition security for all. In the dimensions of availability,[1] accessibility (poverty alleviation), stability (increasing resilience) and utilization (diversified diets), agro-ecology has significant potential to improve food security. Many studies have found strong relationships between diverse farming systems (one of the key principles of agroecology), diversity of household diets and nutrition.[2]

The covid-19 pandemic has reinforced this transformation imperative. First of all; scientists have in the past linked the emergence of epidemics such as the Covid-19 pandemic, to the loss of habitat and biodiversity worldwide. But more importantly, this particular pandemic reveals the importance of strengthening the resilience of food systems and the autonomy of agricultural producers. There is ample evidence that agro-ecological systems, which are less dependent on inputs and major globalized value chains, are more resilient to the shocks of the pandemic on food systems. Here is one farmer’s testimony:

« At a time like this when there is no more movement, I continue to thrive because most of the inputs I need are on my farm; otherwise it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get them.  We produce a variety of crops and animals on the farm, so that has helped to spread the risk. With COVID-19, I can get income from different businesses: banana prices are currently very low, but in the near future, I will get income from cowpeas, onions and garlic. Also, as a family, we have enough food.»

We urgently need to reform our food systems so that they become socially equitable and no longer harm the planet. According to many international institutions, scientists, farmers’ movements and NGOs, this can be done by supporting an agro-ecological transition of food systems. In contrast to the proliferation of large-scale investments in agriculture, developed countries must strongly support the necessary agro-ecological transformation of food systems in developing countries. Recently (March 2020), a study on ” The share of agroecology in Belgian official development assistance: an opportunity missed” by UCLouvain (M. Vermeylen & O. De Schutter) showed that agroecology is not a priority for Belgian development cooperation. Indeed, it devotes only 16% of its budget dedicated to agriculture to support agro-ecology. This is an interpolation for other countries that intervene in one way or another in the development of the countries of the South.

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Good for planet and people? Renewable energy firms urged to clean up act on human rights

Workers walk at a solar power station in Tongchuan, Shaanxi province, China December 11, 2019. Picture taken December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Muyu Xu

BARCELONA, – Companies that produce clean energy are crucial for curbing climate change – but they’re not always the “good guys”, according to a report that tracks their human rights record for the first time.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) says 16 of the world’s largest publicly-traded wind and solar producers are not doing enough to protect their workers and the local communities affected by their operations.

Here are the key takeaways:

What’s the bigger picture?

A push to use less fossil fuel and curb climate change has seen nearly $2.7 trillion invested in renewables – mainly in solar and wind power – in the past decade, and the sector employed 11 million people in 2018.

Many of the companies are seen as saviours when it comes to tackling global warming – but the same can’t be said of how they treat human rights, according to Phil Bloomer, BHRRC executive director

That is a particular concern for indigenous people whose land has in some cases been used for clean energy projects without their agreement or fair compensation.

Which companies have been assessed and what are the key results?

Spanish energy corporations Iberdrola and Acciona, followed by Denmark’s Orsted and Italy’s Enel, had the best human rights record overall, with French and German firms dominating the middle tier – but no company scores above 53% on the benchmark.

The worst performers are Chinese and North American companies, as well investors Brookfield and BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which own many renewable projects.

Companies, on average, scored better on indicators covering the basic human rights responsibilities, including having policies and grievance mechanisms in place, similar to other high-risk industries like apparel, agricultural products and tech manufacturing.

But they scored zero across the board when it came to commitments such as respecting local land rights and relocating or compensating communities affected by renewables projects.

The companies scored well in some areas, including anti-corruption due diligence and health and safety disclosures.

So big renewable energy firms are doing the right thing for the planet but the wrong thing for people?

The centre has tracked allegations of abuse against renewables companies over the past decade, and says complaints increased 10 times between 2010 and 2018.

Since 2010, the centre has identified 197 allegations of human rights abuses related to renewable energy projects, and asked 127 companies to respond to those allegations.

They include: killings, threats, and intimidation; land grabs; dangerous working conditions and poverty wages; and harm to indigenous peoples’ lives and livelihoods.

Allegations have been made in every region and across the wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and hydropower sectors, with the highest number in Latin America.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200701164637-rk6o4/

During pandemic, Nairobi nuns expand their reach

Sister Grace Njau, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Precious Blood, is being helped with food and hygienic items during a June 12, 2020, collection for poor and needy families in Nairobi, Kenya. (CNS/Francis Njuguna)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Normally, the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood feed about 200 children in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Kawangware and Riruta.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the sisters are expanding their reach.

“We are using the telephone contacts of the children to reach these poor and needy families,” Precious Blood Sister Grace Njau told Catholic News Service during a mid-June distribution.

The sisters set up distribution tents outside Amani Rehabilitation Center/Primary School, where the children normally go for breakfast and lunch.

When a name was called out, a parent or guardian would step forward to collect the packaged assorted items, gathered from donors. About 14 families received food that day.

Esther Njeri, a single mother, told CNS upon receiving her share: “I am happy with our sisters … through our children, they have fed the entire family. May the good Lord bless where this has come from.”

Hassan Kariuki Warui, a Muslim and teacher at the school, told CNS the system was designed so “that every ‘grain of wheat’ goes to the intended poor and needy family.”

Kenya’s bishops anticipated that the food needs would be great with the lockdown. In late May, they predicted the pandemic would hit the nation’s most vulnerable people the hardest, including the 2.5 million people living in informal settlements.

They asked for donations of money, food and nonfood items “to support and save the lives of the affected population. In-kind donations (dry food and nonfood items) can be channeled through our parishes, diocesan and national offices and other church institutions,” the bishops said.

By June 29, Kenya had reported more than 6,000 cases of COVID-19, but fewer than 150 deaths.

“We hope we shall go back to our system of feeding these families via their children in our rehab center and primary school when the current coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown finally come to an end,” Njau said as she helped coordinate the distribution.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/coronavirus/during-pandemic-nairobi-nuns-expand-their-reach

Families sleep in water lines as drought grips Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo

More than 200 residents wait in line for a water delivery truck in the Pumula South area of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, May 22, 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Lungelo Ndhlovu

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, – Twice a week, Nothi Mlalazi joins a long line with dozens of other people – some of whom have slept there overnight – and stands for hours waiting for water in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city.

As the parched southern African country endures its worst drought in years – a problem scientists link to climate change – ongoing water shortages in Bulawayo have left residents in some suburbs without running water for more than three months.

The tankers that the city council sends to deliver water every few days are often the residents’ only hope for clean water.

Many will spend the night at the delivery point to make sure they can fill their buckets before the tankers – or bowsers – run dry.

“Receiving water from bowsers is a huge challenge for many residents. We spend most of our time in long, winding queues, impatiently waiting to fill up our containers,” said Mlalazi, 45, who lives in the poor, crowded suburb of Pumula South.

“You will find (people) as early as 1 a.m. already there,” she added, as she stood in line with two of her daughters, who watched to make sure nobody stole their water buckets.

LOW RESERVES

After several years of drought and patchy rains, reservoir levels have fallen dangerously low, pushing the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to limit water supplies in an attempt to conserve the resource until the rainy season starts in October.

Last month, city authorities began shutting off piped water six days a week, reporting that the three dams acting as the city’s primary water sources were at less than 30% of capacity.

The city had already decommissioned three other dams due to the water dropping below pumping levels.

Some residents have resorted to drawing the water they need for washing from unprotected sources such as ponds and leaking water pipes, or tapping into sewage gutters for water to flush their toilets, said Pumula South resident Charles Siziba.

Siziba said the situation is made even more dire by the coronavirus pandemic, as the lack of running water increases the risk that people will catch the illness and infect others.

It is almost impossible to practice the regular handwashing that health experts say is one of the best weapons against the virus, he noted.

“And there is also no social distancing to speak of, because when the bowser comes through, residents push and shove in the water queue to fill up their buckets,” Siziba said.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200617011613-mlzha/

Catholic schools step in to feed children over summer break

Manchester United and England soccer player Marcus Rashford. Credit: Jose Breton – Pics Action/Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, – England soccer star Marcus Rashford won praise when he persuaded the government Tuesday to extend a free school meal voucher scheme to cover the summer break. 

The Manchester United forward’s campaign will allow parents to claim vouchers for around 1.3 million children in England during the six-week holiday.

While Catholic charities welcomed the breakthrough, they said that the new measure alone would not be enough to ensure that children have enough to eat when schools close next month. 

Anna Gavurin, coordinator of the Caritas Food Collective at Caritas Westminster, said in a statement June 16: “In the last few weeks we have seen many schools setting up their own food banks and food parcel delivery schemes to support families who are struggling.” 

“Even with free school meal vouchers available, schools are seeing a level of need so great that they have been forced to provide direct food relief themselves.”

The Caritas Food Collective seeks to tackle food poverty across the Diocese of Westminster, which covers all of London north of the River Thames. It has been working closely during the coronavirus pandemic with St. Bernadette’s Primary School in Kenton, Harrow, a suburban area of Greater London. 

Headteacher David O’Farrell told CNA that the organization was helping him to provide food vouchers for hard-to-reach families who don’t qualify for free school vouchers.  

“Marcus Rashford was right: we can’t stop doing that in the summer holidays because that’s the worst time to turn off that tap. But the problem is that it doesn’t reach everybody because not everyone’s on the free school meals register,” he said June 16, the day of the government U-turn.

He explained that in order to qualify for free school meals families needed to meet certain conditions.  

“One of them is that you forgo your Working Tax Credit,” he said. “My parents here are predominantly in low-paid jobs, such as cleaners, pizza places, chicken shops, betting shops, these types of things.”

“If they were to accept the free school meals offer, they would lose a huge amount of working credit. So people don’t take it.”

Around five years ago, O’Farrell decided to set up a food bank at the school, which has a significant number of Romanian, Polish and Sri Lankan students, and is located in one of the poorest wards in Harrow. 

With the help of a school governor who worked in the food industry, he converted a shed into a storage room for dry foods such as pasta and rice, as well as soup. When the governor left, the local parish, All Saints, Kenton, stepped in to help. 

But at every stage, O’Farrell said, some needy families felt unable to access the food because of “this huge issue of embarrassment.” He believed that the problem could be solved if schools gave parents vouchers they could redeem at local supermarkets. 

The Caritas Food Collective asked him to put his idea down in writing.
 
“I wrote it and I didn’t think I was going to hear [any more] about it,” he said. “Then all of a sudden we had lockdown and they wrote to me saying that they had put the plan into place. We were eligible for £500 worth of vouchers, which we’ve used. And we’re now on our second lot of £500.” 

“I reckon we’re supporting about 25 families at the moment. Every day now we have two or three families coming to use our food bank.”

He described the plight of one family which was made homeless recently when the landlord increased their rent. They were rehoused in a neighboring borough. O’Farrell sent the mother vouchers and invited her to visit the school food bank. When she collected the food, she broke down in tears.

“It was just the first act of kindness she had received,” he said. “She was so relieved because she was at the end of her tether. That was in week two or three of lockdown.”

Asked what motivated him to find new ways to help families, O’Farrell said: “Christian values are very important to me and very important to the way we run the school. It’s also my upbringing as well. I had to stand in the free school meals line with a different colored ticket to everyone else.

“But looking at these poor children, they are worse off. It’s our duty as Catholics, as Christians, to do something about it.”

O’Farrell underlined his gratitude to Caritas Westminster for its emergency food voucher scheme.

He said: “They’ve been brilliant. There’s an email here from Anna [Gavurin] saying that on Friday we’re getting a Hasbro toy delivery, because she’s got a link with them. So some of our children will be going home with brand new toys on Friday, which is lovely.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-schools-step-in-to-feed-children-over-summer-break-48402

Cash payments to cut poverty in Indonesian villages help forests too

Sumbanese villagers work on a field seeding peanuts in Hamba Praing village, Kanatang district, East Sumba Regency, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, February 23, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

KUALA LUMPUR, – A social protection scheme to help poor Indonesians living in rural areas by giving them cash also reduced deforestation by 30%, researchers said on Friday, fuelling hope that efforts to tackle poverty and protect forests can work in tandem.

The study analysed Indonesia’s national anti-poverty programme – which transfers money to poor households that follow health and education guidelines – looking at about 7,500 forest villages that received money from 2008 to 2012.

“No matter which way we looked at it, the anti-poverty programme on average leads to reduction in deforestation in the villages receiving it,” said study co-author Paul Ferraro, a professor of human behaviour and public policy at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

Over the last two decades, Indonesia managed to cut its poverty rate by more than half to just under 10% of its 260 million population in 2019, according to the World Bank.

The Southeast Asian nation, which is home to the world’s third-largest tropical forests, is also the top global producer of palm oil – which generates millions of jobs but is blamed by environmentalists for forest loss and fires.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation, was named as one of the top three countries for rainforest loss in 2019, according to data published this month by Global Forest Watch, a monitoring service that uses satellites.

The new study on Indonesia, published in the journal Science Advances, looked at data on tree-cover loss for villages near forests, before and after the welfare programme began.

Cash-based schemes to tackle poverty are becoming increasingly popular in developing countries, with 16 tropical nations having adopted such methods, Ferraro noted.

The Indonesian programme – still being phased in across the archipelago – makes “modest” quarterly cash payments equating to about 15-20% of recipients’ household consumption, he said.

The 266,533 households analysed for the study were located in the 15 provinces that make up half of Indonesia’s forest cover and account for about 80% of its deforestation.

Researchers found that farmers in these villages typically cleared forest to plant more crops if they expected low yields, due to delays in the monsoon season or prolonged drought.

But when given cash payments, they switched to buying from markets rather than clearing forest, or were able to take out loans using the government handout as a guarantee, said Ferraro.

Before scaling up such cash schemes worldwide, Ferraro urged more research on their environmental benefits.

A separate study in Mexico, using different methods, found a small rise in deforestation as locals may have used the cash to keep more cattle, clearing forest for grazing, he noted.

“We’re not going to solve the rainforest problems with a conditional cash transfer programme,” he said.

“(But) it provides space for these two groups – the anti-poverty and pro-environment groups – to be more collaborative.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200612171610-gro26/

Cardinal Turkson delivers face masks, care packages to Romani families

Cardinal Turkson visits a Romani camp in Castel Romano June 13, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, – Cardinal Peter Turkson delivered face masks and care packages over the weekend to Romani families in need on the outskirts of Rome on behalf of Pope Francis.

“We are here today to witness the support for all those who experience situations of suffering and vulnerability, and who are often forgotten, especially in this time of health, social and economic emergency,” Cardinal Turkson said following the visit June 13.

“As Pope Francis often repeats, no one should be left behind,” he said.

Cardinal Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, met with volunteers of a non-profit association that provides 200-300 weekly food packages for the children who live in Romani camps and slums. The cardinal then visited a Romani camp outside of Rome in Castel Romano to help deliver some of the food packages. 

The Romani, often called “gypsies” and known as “travelers” in much of Europe, form a marginal and minority people present in countries across the continent. 

Pope Francis has met with members of Rome’s Romani community on several occasions, continuing a tradition of Pope Paul VI who visited a Romani camp near Rome in 1965.

The risk of malnutrition among the Romani children in the camps was heightened by the coronavirus pandemic, a statement from the Dicastery for the Integral Human Development said.

Turkson distributed 300 vinyl gloves, 600 surgical masks, 200 fabric masks, and 500 packs of acetaminophen donated by the Vatican Pharmacy as a part of the dicastery’s Vatican commission for COVID-19.

The Vatican commission for COVID-19, created at the request of Pope Francis, was formed “to express the concern and love of the Church for the whole human family in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, above all through the analysis and reflection on the socio-economic and cultural challenges of the future and the proposal of guidelines to face them.”

During his visit to the Romani community, Cardinal Turkson communicated Pope Francis’ feeling of spiritual closeness and paternal embrace in this difficult time to all of the volunteers, families, and children at the camp, acccording to a June 13 press statement issued by the Dicastery.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-cardinal-peter-turkson-delivers-face-masks-care-packages-to-romani-families-14420

Ugandans melt plastic waste into coronavirus face shields

A gatekeeper at Gulu regional hospital wears a face shield made by local organisation Takataka Plastics to deal with COVID-19 shortages of personal protective equipment, Gulu, Uganda, May 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/John Okot

GULU, Uganda,- When the Ugandan government ordered all non-essential workplaces shut to contain the coronavirus pandemic in late March, Peter Okwoko and his colleague Paige Balcom kept working.

But the pair – who had been turning collected plastic waste into building materials since last year – shifted gear and instead began manufacturing makeshift plastic face shields from discarded plastic bottles.

When they posted pictures of their prototypes on social media, they got a surprise phone call from the local public hospital.

“The doctor from Gulu regional referral hospital requested we make 10 face shield masks urgently because they didn’t have enough” and the hospital had just received its first COVID-19 patient, said Okwoko, 29, a co-founder of Takataka Plastics.

The social enterprise set to work shredding plastic, melting it and shaping the liquid plastic into face shields and frames. Soon a first set of shields was delivered.

But “in the afternoon, the hospital called again. They said they needed more face shields because the previous ones had worked out well for them”, Okwoko said.

LOCAL PROTECTION

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to burn around the world, it has also caused severe disruptions in supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The problem is particularly severe in poorer countries with few resources to pay high prices in a competitive global market. In March, WHO officials urged companies around the world to increase production by 40% if possible to meet growing demand.

In Uganda, medical workers have discussed work boycotts to protest the lack of protective equipment in hospitals, especially after several healthcare workers were confirmed infected with the virus.

“The situation is critical. Many people are working without PPE,” Dr. Mukuzi Muhereza, secretary general for the country’s health workers’ body, the Uganda Medical Association, warned last week.

“That is hampering the fight against COVID-19 because there’s fear among health workers that anytime I touch a patient I might be a COVID patient myself,” he said.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200611002521-u8gf1/