Newly trained women in Ninewa produce face masks to combat spread of COVID-19 in Iraq

March 28, 2020

Dr. Suhair, 53, originally from Mosul, is pictured outside an operating theatre at the Hamdaniya General Hospital – Iraq, which has been rehabilitated with the support of UNDP. Photo: Claire Thomas/UNDP Iraq/2019.

In January 2020, UNDP and Kurdistan Human Rights Watch (KHRW) collaborated to train sixty women on sewing and tailoring in Ninewa over the course of a ten-day workshop. At the time, these women could not have foreseen how their newly developed skills would contribute to combatting the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic currently sweeping the globe.

As of 25 March 2020, the World Health Organization has tracked over 400, 000 cases of COVID-19 with over 18, 000 confirmed deaths. The pandemic has affected 197 countries, areas, and territories, including Iraq. When a pharmaceutical company contracted by the Ninewa Department of Health was tasked with producing five million disposable face masks in response to the spread of COVID-19, thirty of the recently trained women were employed to use their skills to produce the masks. After briefings on the health standards and nature of the environment required for mask production, the seamstresses began creating thousands of masks daily in controlled conditions.

Working swiftly to produce this vital personal protection equipment despite the curfew in Ninewa Governorate, these skilled women are directly contributing to the mitigation of COVID-19 in Iraq.

Aseel, 45, says, “We have produced thousands of pieces and the major portion is delivered to the Ninewa Health Department. Some other organizations are also receiving face masks from us and they distribute those free of cost in communities and camps.”

Not only has the sewing and tailoring skills training empowered sixty women with new abilities, it has also instilled within them hope for their futures. Sustainable development projects such as these are at the forefront of UNDP Iraq’s priorities. Nora, 37, says, “I am working on developing myself in the sewing profession and in the future, I would like to create a workplace for sewing or a small factory.”

The organization and facilitation of skills development workshops with Kurdistan Human Rights Watch is part of a project spearheaded by UNDP Iraq under the Social Cohesion Programme, which aims to improve the enabling environment for peace and social cohesion in all areas of Iraq.