The whole world is suffering from COVID-19—everyone has their own struggles, so it’s hard to ask you to think about people half way around the world away right now. However, hospitals in northern Uganda have no funds set aside for unexpected outbreaks. They need our help now more than ever.
Doctors and nurses in public hospitals in Uganda have virtually no personal protective equipment. N95 respirators are unheard of. There are no face shields. An insufficient number of ever decreasing disposable medical masks are the staff's only protection as they treat patients. We’re working to provide face shields to Uganda’s front line medical workers to help protect them as they fight COVID-19.
I’m Paige Balcom, a mechanical engineering PhD student at UC Berkeley and co-founder and CTO of Takataka Plastics, a new social enterprise locally transforming plastic waste into construction materials while creating jobs for at-risk youths. When Uganda announced its first cases of COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago, we asked ourselves, what can we do to help our community here?
When we heard about the lack of protective equipment in the hospitals, we started making face shields from recycled plastic. We showed our initial prototypes to doctors—they loved the idea and really wanted to have face shields. One commented, “I don’t even feel like taking it off.” One shared that while he was doing a procedure, pus came up and sprayed his face. He was really happy he was wearing the face shield because it protected him. But the medical staff complained of glare paining their eyes and making it difficult to do some procedures.
We went back to our workshop and tried to fix the glare problem. We looked at designs of face shields being made by hobbyists all over the world right now, but in Uganda, we don’t have access to the materials they’re using. Working with recycled soda bottles, old paint buckets, lots of staples, scrap kitenge fabric, glue, boda boda seat covers, foam from small engine filters, and more staples, we made prototype after prototype. Finally, we got it! We made a face shield with no glare. Excitedly, we rushed to the clinic to show the doctors, and they were just as excited to try the improved face shield. With beaming smiles they said, “This is really great.”
Now we have to scale up production. Gulu district alone has 3 hospitals and 63 smaller health facilities. One hospital is supposed to provide services to nearly 2 million people. Here’s how you can help:
We’re fundraising to buy a couple machines that will greatly improve our production of face shields. We can also easily modify the machines to make other needed medical equipment. We also need to raise funds to cover the material and labor costs for 3000 shields to give to the public hospitals and clinics in northern Uganda. The government health facilities currently have no funds for face shields, so in order for their doctors and staff to get the protective equipment, they must be donated. Here’s the details:
-- Injection machine ($3,000)
-- Shredder ($5,250)
-- Materials and labor for 3000 face shields to give to public health facilities ($750)
With the machines, we'll be able to produce reusable, quality, professional face shields that can be disinfected and used many times. We’ll also be able to create 17 jobs, 12 of which are for young adults who live and work on the street. With the current curfew and other lockdown restrictions, these youths have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. By working with us to make face shields, they’ll be able to get a small salary, a safe place to sleep, and hot food. We’ll be able to help protect doctors and homeless youths from COVID-19.
Thanks so much for considering supporting and partnering with us to protect front line medical workers in Uganda. We sincerely appreciate you! If you’d rather donate directly into a bank account, please reach out to us and we can facilitate that. Apwoyo matek (thanks very much).
Together we can beat COVID-19!
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- Sarai Bardales
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