By Bukar Bolori
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union have employed 2,000 female internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the production of 40,000 face masks and 12,000 bars of soap in Borno State.
The production which is taking place in two UNICEF-supported vocational centres in Maiduguri is funded by the European Union.
According to a statement by UNICEF on Monday, more than 2,000 vulnerable households will benefit from the materials as part of mitigation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The statement quoted the Education Manager, UNICEF Borno Field Office, Dr. Nasser Kaddoura to have said that the “vocational centres which were producing free school uniforms for vulnerable girls and boys, will provide female-headed households and out-of-school youths in Borno with another skill set in face masks and soap production.
“These centres will revert to its original purpose at the end of the pandemic along with new COVID-19 related vocational training skills.”
Kaddoura said: “UNICEF is working to ensure that children and families are safe and can return to school once this pandemic is over. We are currently supporting radio learning programme in the state. With the funding from the European Union, UNICEF is supporting the Borno State Government, through the State Agency for Mass Education, with 40,000 face masks to ensure that families and children are protected from COVID-19. In addition to hand washing with soap, properly using a face mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“UNICEF in partnership with the Borno State Agency for Mass Education has been providing skills and employment opportunities for females who head their households and girls recently released from armed groups in Borno State. They have produced 22,000 school uniforms for vulnerable children in the last one year. With COVID-19 response, UNICEF is engaging them and out-of-school youths to produce face masks and soaps. They will be helping to halt the spread of COVID-19 even as they earn an income from this venture,’’ he said.
Kaddoura said that the production would take place under strict safety guidelines, disclosing that gloves, face masks, handwashing points with water have been provided at the centrewhile social distancing would be compulsory.
He added that: “UNICEF is rolling out this initiative to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and see to it that gains recorded with conflict-affected and out-of-school children in the state are not eroded. With support from donor partners like the EU, at least 25,000 youths will be empowered with vocational skills for employment from 2019-2021. The EU-Action contributes to increasing the resilience and social inclusion of adolescents and youths in Borno State, allowing them to play an active and positive role in the society.
Also speaking on the initiative, the SAME’s Director of Women Programmes, Hajia Hauwa Usman Abubakar, commended UNICEF for its contribution in the fight against COVID-19. “We are impressed with UNICEF’s efforts in the state. The partnership with SAME has empowered our people and the production of face masks and soap is not different.
“I have also been monitoring the centres and UNICEF has provided gloves and face masks to the beneficiaries. It is a welcome development especially as face masks and regular hand washing with soap can reduce the spread of the virus,’’ she said.