GENEVA, Switzerland, May 23, 2020/ –It started as a mini-cooperative to give a small income for hundreds of refugees evacuated from Libya.
But with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, this small self-help project has grown into a “factory” and churns out bars of soap, liquid handwash, bleach and water containers for free distribution.
The project was established in 2019 by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and Forge Arts, a local non-profit, at an emergency transit mechanism (ETM) centre in Hamdallaye, a small town less than 100 kilometers from Niamey, Niger’s capital.
Here, over 280 refugee women work, doing their part to respond to the increasing demand for hygiene products.
“We are not only helping to fight this disease but are also learning new skills that will help us when we return home,” says Nicole, who was evacuated from Libya and currently lives in the centre, where she’s learnt how to make bleach without using any machinery.
Aboubacari Nana Kadidjatou, the administrator of Forge Arts, which conducts the training at the ETM, adds that equipping the women with these skills is essential.
“This COVID-19 crisis is a real tragedy,” says Kadidjatou. “But thanks to the training, the refugees are now part of the response. This makes them feel useful.”