The right person at the right time — Dr Sadiyo Siad’s reusable face masks could save thousands of lives in Somalia

With healthcare infrastructure incapacitated by decades of conflict, Somalia needs to respond rapidly and innovatively to prevent the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the UNDP Accelerator Lab, we are working with the Somali innovation community to identify effective responses developed by people on the ground.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be profiling some of the outstanding local innovators, beginning with a remarkable Somali woman, Dr Sadiyo Siad, whose many achievements now include developing affordable and reusable face masks with filters.

Assembling a team of her Hano Academy’s students and staff, she quickly decided the immediate priority was to focus on affordable ways to reduce infection.

Dr Siad applied her background in infectious diseases, immunology and medical diagnostics to design the masks.

They feature a special filter that minimizes the spread of the virus and a high-quality cloth recommended by the WHO. Both the cloth and the filter are washable and safe for re-use.

“I decided on cotton as the main material,” she says, “partly because of the heat here in Somalia. But I had to try five different markets before I found the right supplier!”

Selecting the right type of filter and getting production off the ground was another challenge. Even with a team of Hano Academy students and teachers it took five weeks of research, testing and training in production, hygiene and packaging before Dr Siad was ready to launch the product.

Two weeks ago, the efforts of Hano Academy team paid off for themselves and for Somalia when they became the country’s first producers of safe, reusable and affordable face masks.

As of last week, the team had the capacity to produce up to 1,400 face masks per day at a price of between 1.9 and 2.5 dollars. Orders have already been received from government offices and health officials.

Dr. Sadiyo is now working together with UNDP to increase her production capacity.

Sadiyo is also focused on immediate ways of reducing infection by producing effective soaps and raising awareness of the importance of handwashing.

For the past month, 10 Hano Academy students have been learning how to make soap from simple and affordable materials available in local markets.

The face masks and handwashing soap produced by Dr Siad and her team — combined with UNDP’s effective awareness-raising efforts — are set to save many thousands of lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.




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UNDP Accelerator Lab Somalia

UNDP Accelerator Lab Somalia

Building the world’s largest learning network around development challenges. 60 Labs in 78 countries.

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