In an initiative promoted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 20 migrants who have returned to Gambia are producing protective equipment for COVID-19 for frontline border officials.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 in western and central Africa, which has infected over 8,000 people and led to the deaths of over 200, has led to a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a statement on Tuesday.
In order to improve the availability of basic medical supplies in The Gambia, IOM said it is mainstreaming COVID-related activities into existing initiatives.
As part of their reintegration assistance, 20 migrant returnees are producing up to 2,000 protective suits and shoe coverings which will be donated to the Gambian health ministry frontline immigration and border officials, the UN agency said.
Fighting the pandemic with initiative cash-for-work
After the prototype's approval by The Gambia Standards Bureau (TGSB), the returnees learned the correct techniques to produce protective items.
The 20 participants, most of whom were stranded in Libya and Niger, were previously trained in tailoring and received sewing equipment as part of their reintegration assistance received under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative.
"The government is currently in need of these medical supplies, so this is a very laudable initiative. It's even more pleasing that returnees will be able to earn income from this opportunity," Amadou G. Jallow, Standards Officer at TGSB, was quoted as saying by IOM.
The cash-for-work initiative further facilitates the reintegration of returnees by giving them tailoring skills and businesses, as the pandemic's widespread impact on economic activity risks undermining gains returnees have made in settling in.
''This innovative initiative utilizes the skills of returnees to meet an urgent public demand,'' said Fumiko Nagano, IOM's Chief of Mission in The Gambia. ''Just as people around the world are working tirelessly to fight the pandemic, we are very pleased to highlight the work of these returnees in The Gambia.''
'An opportunity for returnees'
Since 2017, IOM has contributed to the return and reintegration of over 5,000 Gambians.
Abdou Magidou Jallow, who returned from Morocco at the beginning of this year, stressed the difficulties he faced with his activity due to coronavirus. ''It really affected my tailoring business; we used to have a lot of customers, but now we hardly have any since many people are staying home,'' he said.
"This is an opportunity for me and my fellow returnees to earn income and, at the same time, contribute toward combatting the pandemic."
With the help of Abdou and the other participants, frontline immigration and border officials will have an added layer of protection available to safely execute their work, IOM said.
As The Gambia shares highly porous borders with Senegal, border posts and communities are at the frontline of the pandemic.