17 July 2020, Juba, South Sudan: To mobilize young people to act against poverty and the fight against the COVID-19, a series of events were conducted in the capital city of Juba to mark Nelson Mandela International Day. The events included the launch of UNDP Accelerator Lab’s experiment to produce hand sanitizers and the Government of South Sudan's efforts to locally make reusable face masks through the Face Mask Production Centre in Juba.
The event was attended by Vice President of South Sudan H.E. Madam Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, along with the Minister for Youth and Sport Dr. Albino Bol Dhieu, Head of Cooperation Deputy Head of Mission Janika Walter, Ambassador of South Africa to South Sudan H.E. Gordon Yekelo, Head of African Union Mission in South Sudan Joram Biswaro, CEO of MTN South Sudan Gordian Kyomukama, and Deputy Representative (Operations) for UNDP South Sudan Rose Baguma.
Delivering the key-note remarks, H.E. Madam Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, who is also the founder of the Face Mask Production Center, described Nelson Mandela as a formidable icon in the African struggle and liberation. “This year has been challenging for everyone around the world. In South Sudan, there have been multiple layers of crises, including, cattle raiding, the spread of COVID-19, locust invasion, seasonal flooding, and growing inter-communal clashes,” she highlighted.
H.E. Madam Rebecca emphasized the need to find local solutions to local challenges and called out to young people in South Sudan to think innovatively. ''We are not only combating the virus by producing the face masks, but we are also creating sustainable jobs by hiring tailors locally.''
To date, over 75 tailors have been employed and are producing over 35,000 face masks daily. The center has also onboarded young volunteers to distribute the face masks along with essential food and care kits to communities and families.
In addition, the Minister of Youth and Sports Dr. Albino Bol Dhieu added the Ministry’s commitment to mobilizing young people to respond to COVID-19 and find innovative solutions. He said the people of South Sudan need to use face masks regularly and spread accurate information about COVID-19 among their communities.
Also, at the launch, Embassy of Germany’s Head of Cooperation Janika Walter said, “COVID-19 has taught us that as a global community, we need to move beyond business as usual by accelerating our efforts to fight the pandemic together.'' She extended the Embassy of Germany's continuous support to the People of South Sudan and UNDP to deliver an integrated response to the country’s developmental challenges.
The event saw the launch of the UNDP Accelerator Lab in South Sudan’s recent initiative in collaboration with GoGirls ICT Initiative to engage with young girls and teachers from the University of Juba to produce hand sanitizers locally. The experiment explores producing hand sanitizers using local reagents as substitutes for the usually expensive imported reagents (Ethanol) in the market aligned with WHO’s recommendations.
Given that the objective of the experiment is to use locally sourced raw materials, the team will continue experiment with locally sourced raw materials by working with women who are already producing the local alcohol called suk suk to make high-quality alcohol for the sanitizers. Additionally, locally sourced aloe vera and oranges will be used to finish up the production of the sanitizer. The Accelerator Lab is being supported by the Government of Germany, Italy, and Qatar.
Lending her voice to the innovative experiment, Deputy Representative (Operations) for UNDP South Sudan Rose Baguma, said that COVID-19 posed a responsibility on all stakeholders and young people to be creative in finding homegrown solutions. She emphasized the spirit of solidarity and called upon all development partners, the private sector, and the people of South Sudan to sustain these 'laudable initiatives.'
Following which, Saida Ibrahim, a Mandela Washington Fellow said the reason young people are taking the lead is ''because we have the energy, we have the dream, and we are the majority.” She said that young people contribute differently in fighting COVID-19 by campaigning against disinformation and the production of face masks and sanitizers.
In response to COVID-19, UNDP is also producing and distributing reusable face masks across six regions in the country. So far, this initiative has created jobs for over 450 people and produced over 265,000 face masks. Learn more about it here.