Earlier this week, the news that the first two cases of COVID-19 in Gaza came with well-placed concerns and a lockdown on the West Bank, ordered by Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. One Palestinian shoemaker in the West Bank was well-equipped and prepared, though, ever since news of the outbreak in Bethlehem came out; he is now the owner of the territory’s only mask factory, which he built overnight, and which now produces thousands of masks per day.
Hebron-born Amjad Zaghir’s factory - eponymously named Zaghir - began fully operating only a few weeks after the news of the outbreak came out. During those few weeks, he studied and researched a mask that he bought, to determine what kinds of material and equipment he’ll need. After consulting with a pharmacist, he bought some of the needed material off of a vendor who had obtained it from Turkey earlier.
After multiple trials and errors, he was able to secure all the equipment needed to produce fully functioning and safe masks, and began employing locals to work on producing them. The factory now makes from 7000-9000 masks per day. “This is about helping my people, and a way of providing work opportunities,” he told 972mag. “There’s a crisis in Hebron, and many are unemployed.”’
Photo taken in Gaza City, courtesy of AFP.
The factory is thus both a response to the expected shortage in materials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as a result of the permanent lockdown the territory is under, and to the issues facing Palestinians more generally, including unemployment and access to healthcare and pharmaceuticals.
Zaghir is now selling the masks to government employees, hospitals, and Palestinian police. He’s also receiving requests from “Jordan, Kuwait, the Gulf countries, and Canada,” as well as Israeli sellers.
While his material might run out, Zaghir explains to 972mag that he will continue to operate under any circumstances. “I contacted the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, and they in turn appealed to the Israeli Chamber of Commerce, which then contacted customs and other authorities on this issue,” he said. “This is a health crisis, a global pandemic, a state of emergency. It’s not business as usual, which is why I am quite confident they will let me import the goods.”
There is now a total of 57 COVID-19 cases in the West Bank.
Main image courtesy of 972 Mag.