At the end of last month, MOAS launched a new COVID-19 humanitarian project in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Bangladesh, which is used to its fair share of natural and humanitarian disasters, is now facing the possibility of increased spread of the novel coronavirus. An outbreak of COVID-19 would put significant pressure on the country’s health system and its economy should people be asked to isolate at home for extended periods with businesses and community activities suspended.

The overcrowded Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, which is home to over a million Rohingya refugees, is particularly susceptible to the spread of this virus and the overcrowded living conditions with ill-equipped sanitation infrastructure here make social distancing a challenge as a preventative measure.

In light of the additional challenges faced by the region in the face of this pandemic, and after our ongoing flood and water safety training was suspended due to new restrictions in the camps, MOAS decided to utilise our resources to contribute to the COVID-19 emergency response in the region.

With support from IOM, we decided to transform our newly constructed workshop in Shamlapur into a production hub for the manufacturing of reusable, washable cotton face masks to be distributed across the region as a preventative measure and attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

The prototype we developed for the masks was approved by the Cox’s Bazar Civil Surgeon and, although the masks are not substitutes for surgical masks or N95 respirators, they are recommended in contexts like Bangladesh where access to other safe sanitation infrastructure is severely lacking to help stunt further virus spread across the region.


Over the past weeks, this project has also served as a livelihoods project for local host community workers, many of whom have lost income due to the shutdown and are now employed in our workshop. Our fantastic team of local tailors also includes many working from home, to make this project more accessible and beneficial to the wider local community.

Furthermore, all our materials for the production of the masks have been sourced from local businesses to further support the host community during these challenging and uncertain times.


Our dedicated team has been working tirelessly to produce masks for their local communities and we are delighted that in the past month a total of 19,000 face masks have been manufactured and distributed, with a further 8000 going out for delivery today.

The distribution has been coordinated by IOM, the Livelihoods sector and local administrators who have also provided information leaflets on basic hygiene measures as well as how to use and effectively sanitise the facemask to recipients to ensure widespread access to public health information.

The target groups of the first distributions of masks have been those particularly vulnerable to exposure including the police, the Fire Service, the Cyclone Preparedness volunteers and their own community volunteers who have been grateful for the additional preventative measures in light of the pandemic.

As our team continues to work hard to manufacture masks for these target groups, we hope their work will contribute towards the regional effort to slow the spread of the virus as a widespread outbreak in Cox’s Bazar would certainly be catastrophic for the host community and Rohingya refugees alike.


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