Rwanda Opens Market for  More Face Masks 

Rwanda Standards Bureau (RSB) and the local Food Drug Authority (FDA) have opened calls for more manufacturers of face masks to bridge the demand gap a nd improve access to personal protection equipment (PPEs) under the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The call comes after it has emerged that the 38 authorized PPE manufacturing firm have failed to meet the local demand resulting in some individuals making their own masks of which some don’t meet the reqiired standards.

Last month, the government commissioned 38 local clothing companies to manufacture face masks in a bid to combat the spread of coronavirus cases in public spaces.

The authorized mask manufacturing plants have so far produced 2.5million masks for the estimated 12 Rwandans who are now obliged to put on face masks under the current flexible Covid19 lockdown measures.

Appearing on the KT radio talk show Ubyumva Ute this Wednesday, both agencies said that the demand for face masks to protect citizens against coronavirus infection has been high compared to the capacity at hand.

FDA explained that those who are officially manufacturing face masks were mobilized to shift to this new business model but there is still room for improvement as certified mask making firms increase from 19 to 38 companies since April.  

“There is a big need for masks, that’s why we are calling upon other potential manufacturers to come forward so that we don’t have a shortage of supply for citizens who need to go out putting on masks,” said Antoine Mukunzi Rwanda FDA Division Manager Quality Control Laboratory.

Mukunzi said that the art of making masks is not rocket science, and all it requires is to abide by the health measures and standards of making a mask.

All we need is to see many enterprises and individual tailors registering so that we can inspect their workplace, then they can help in producing masks for the community,” Mukunzi said. 

Currently, the capacity to manufacture face masks has moved from 120,000 face masks per month to over 500,000 masks but the FDA says that it targets one million per day in order to satisfy the local demand.

However, the distribution chain of the Covid-19 health and safety products has not been to reach most of the beneficiaries according to citizen reports, especially in rural areas.

Some residents say that they cannot access the selling points for authorized masks thus turning to alternative measures of making homemade masks and buying from local tailors in the community. 

“We are not seeing the locally made masks in our communities and they are also very expensive (Rwf500) that is why we choose to buy the ones which are made by tailors and cheaper (Rwf200),” said one of the radio listeners.

FDA says they are doing an inspection for masks that are not to the standards. 

Places of sale are pharmacies, supermarkets, and the country is planning to work with health workers to increase the distribution in all districts.

The RSB agrees that more masks are needed so that one person can have as many as possible in order to wear a new mask every four to six hours as regulated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“If we stick to the standards and good practices in manufacturing and good packing, we can even have these masks exported to other countries,” said Samuel Mporanzi- RSB. 

Some tips on face masks

For example, apart from the Medical (surgical) masks made out of nonwoven fabric, when buying a mask, one should look at material of the products to make sure it is not made out of polythene but any other kind of cloth fabric which simplifies breathing especially the African print cloth- Kitenge.

A face mask, according to FDA and RSB must be well packaged or sealed in sanitary pack and in four different sizes- large, medium and small and extra small to suit the different age groups including children.

The ear strings on a mask must be elastic and able to fit a normal adult. However, one needs to have more than one mask to put on with each valid for four to six hours before changing to another one.  

Unlike medical masks that are disposable after every use, FDA says that a cloth mask can be washed with clean water, dried, and ironed for reuse as many times as possible.




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