Refugee artisans in Kuala Lumpur contributed to making some 7,685 personal protection equipment (PPE) sets for frontliners in eight hospitals and clinics in Malaysia.
The artisans - 21 Afghani and six Myanmarese refugees - contributed to the efforts by Earth Heir, a fair trade social enterprise collective of 140 artisans in Malaysia.
The PPE sets are worth RM163,806.20 and have been delivered, Earth Heir said in its submission to a contest by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
“The PPE project both provides a means for refugee artisans to earn an income, support the effort to help our national heroes and allows us to help the country battle the coronavirus outbreak,” Earth Heir’s contest submission reads.
The PPE production was funded by donations, and the items delivered to Hospital Ampang, Hospital Klang, the Gombak and Petaling district health departments, Klinik Kesihatan Petaling, Shah Alam and Batu and the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre.
The UNDP and Unicef contest, which runs until June 12, seeks submissions from individuals and community groups on coping strategies in the midst of the movement control order (MCO).
Participants can share their stories by sending SHARE to +6016 800 1919 via Telegram or WhatsApp, along with photos or videos of their activities during the movement control order, to stand a chance to win RM100 worth of vouchers.
It is part of UNDP and Unicef’s solutions mapping effort to record grassroots challenges and innovations during the Covid-19 pandemic, to help policymakers address community needs.
Artisans severely affected by supply chain disruption
Earth Heir shared their story of the refugee artisans under the category "supporting vulnerable groups in the community".
It said the project tries to address the needs of the artisans, whose livelihoods were severely affected through supply chain disruption, forced operation closures and order cancellations under the MCO.
The refugee artisans were also part of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), which is Asia’s initiative to distribute fair trade and PPE sets made by refugees, it said.
Under this programme, refugees from Afghanistan, Myanmar and Syria were producing PPE sets, including gowns, headcovers and shoe covers, to contribute to the fight against Covid-19, it said.
Earlier, Earth Heir chief executive officer Xiao Cheng Wong told the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that the group’s goal is to ensure income for their refugee members.
“They are one of the most vulnerable groups during this pandemic and are hit the most during an economic slowdown,” Wong said.
Some of the refugee artisans collaborating with Earth Heir are based in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, which was placed under lockdown last month following a spike in Covid-19 cases there.
Stuck behind barbed wires, the artisans were unable to continue their work and had to rely on Earth Heir for basic provisions, the group said. The refugee group included 14 adults and five children, Earth Heir said.
There are 177,800 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia up to April. They are from Myanmar, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Palestine and other countries. A total 46,450 are children.
Malaysia has not ratified the 1951 International Convention on Refugees. Refugees and asylum seekers are considered undocumented migrants and are not allowed to work or seek education in Malaysia.