Coronavirus in Assam : Hailakandi SHG chips in to address shortage of masks



At a time when Hailakandi district of Assam is facing shortage of masks in wake of coronavirus outbreak, a group of women has stepped in to provide the protective gear to people at an affordable rate.

The district has been facing an acute shortage of masks since the last 15 days and whatever is available, is being sold at a premium.

Considering gravity of the situation, a 10-member Mahamaya SHG of Panchgram area is preparing and supplying at least 600 masks on a daily basis in the nearby areas, Karimganj town, Badarpur, Katigorah and Silchar since the last several days.

These masks available for just Rs 30 a piece are selling like hot cakes. The SHG has engaged 100 women of the locality to speed up the production. “We are supplying these low cost face masks at a wholesale rate of Rs 25 a piece and retail price of Rs 30 a piece to the front line workers. We are also ready to supply masks to the administration, as we have the capacity to raise production up to 1,000 per day,” said Saroda Thapa, who is running the SHG with her husband, Chirag Thapa, a yoga instructor.

“Since they have a huge demand these days following the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country, more and more people are placing orders over the phone,” said Chirag, adding that they can help the government in producing masks of any type, as part of its efforts to help the state in its fight against the dreaded viral disease.

He said the women who are engaged in preparing face masks are eking out a livelihood during the unprecedented situation.

The raw materials are procured from nearby Badarpur in Karimganj district. The masks are reusable after wash, and effective.

In a separate communication, Health Ministry released the manual of hand-made face masks, thereby giving such face masks an official stamp of approval. Prepared by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, the manual claims that a double layer of 100 per cent cotton cloth is about 70 per cent as effective as a surgical mask at capturing small particles (up to five times smaller than Coronavirus).

“Mahamaya women SHG unit in the district have risen to the occasion to supply masks at affordable rates. Despite unfavourable circumstances, these women have come forward to contribute towards public health,” said an official of the administration.

Amid the growing concern over the shortage of protective gear in medical stores across the district, Mahamaya SHG have pitched in by manufacturing over thousands of masks for distribution among front line workers such as health workers, sanitation workers and garbage collectors.

Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli apprised the Chief Minister in a review meeting on Coronavirus here on Wednesday about the urgent need for personal protective equipment, including face mask, considering its scarcity in medical shops.

“Not to speak of N95 masks that block 95 per cent of airborne particulates to combat the Coronavirus, the single masks are not available because of a lack of supply. In such a scenario, the local women SHG unit has rendered a yeoman service in stitching up double-layered cloth masks at affordable prices to protect against Coronavirus.”

Lauding their efforts, Deputy Commissioner Jalli said that “it is heartening to see the all-round response of women, especially members of women SHGs, during this crucial time”.

Following shortage of hand sanitizer, the district administration ordered manufacturing of hand sanitizer with more than 60 per cent alcohol content from Silchar based Surma Distillery Private Limited.

Inspector of Excise, Hailakandi, Surendra Nath Barman disclosed that the administration procured 25 cases and Excise department equal number of cases for distribution among municipal workers, Assam police, CRPF, CISF personnel, judicial court and general public as a preventive measure to keep Coronavirus at bay.

The health authorities here also obtained 300 cases containing 12,000 bottles from the Silchar based distillery for distribution among front line health workers, doctors and surveillance teams.


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