WPDI and UNHCR hand out masks in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Uganda

November 19, 2021 – In a renewed effort to address the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable communities in Uganda, WPDI is pleased to announce a second partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide facemasks for the tens of thousands of residents of the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement. By harnessing the talent and skills of 90 current and former trainees from WPDI’s Arts & Crafts course that we normally offer at our Community Learning Center in the settlement, we will produce and distribute 88,000 reusable cloth facemasks in the coming weeks and months, leading efforts to curb the spread of the virus in and around the settlement.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first came to Uganda at the end of March, there was widespread concern about the potential impact of the virus on communities in Uganda. Home to rural communities and hundreds of thousands of refugees, the region was indeed vulnerable. Our  Youth Peacemakers as well as local partners informed us about the risks facing communities residing at and around the settlement. In response, WPDI decided to take steps to help contain the spread of the virus by mobilizing our network of 1,300 well-trained youths in the Acholi Sub-Region and in and around the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, itself home to more than 65,000 mostly South Sudanese refugees. For the last several months, these youths have been engaged in a campaign designed to raise awareness about the virus as well as in the distribution of equipment, like hand washing stations, soap, and facemasks to improve hygiene and the practice of preventative measures.

A WPDI youth making masks for the residents in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement

This effort was positively noticed by the UNHCR and Uganda’s Office of the Prime Minister, which oversees managing the settlement, which prompted them to strengthen our efforts. While the Youth Peacemaker-led campaign has been widely successful thus far, directly impacting more than 200,000 people in Uganda, such high-level assistance in producing and distributing additional masks will undoubtedly enhance its reach and effectiveness. Indeed, for this project, UNHCR will provide the materials to produce the masks, including sewing machines, which will allow WPDI’s 90 trainees to produce 88,000 new masks by the end of the year.

The youths and trainees have expressed their strong interest and excitement at taking part in these activities. “I’m glad that I learned a lot from my training and have the skills needed to produce facemasks during this pandemic,” Florence, a 25-year-old former trainee, told us. “It feels good to know I can give back to my community.” Milton, a 23-year-old current trainee, echoed a similar sentiment, mentioning how “I feel great knowing that, besides building new skills in arts, crafts, and design, I’m going to be able to help stop the spread of the pandemic here.”

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of many Ugandans, the ways in which our staff and youths have been able to adapt and still have a positive impact on the ground in communities throughout Uganda is a testament to the enormous potential of young people. Through their efforts with the latest component of our wider campaign, they will reach tens of thousands of vulnerable people in and around the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, helping further curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic there.

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