SEATTLE, Washington — Although COVID-19 has been relatively slow to arrive in Africa, the re-opening of surrounding continents, Europe and Asia, is expediting the spread of the virus. Morocco, a North African country in which public mask-wearing during COVID-19 is mandatory, has seen an optimistically low number of COVID-19 cases. As of June 18, 2020, the country has only recorded 9,000 infections and 200 deaths. Because Morocco is doing well at curbing the spread of the virus, the country has begun to use its resources as a symbol of solidarity, to assist those more vulnerable to the virus. Moroccan-made masks are at the forefront of this solidarity and have an impact that spans beyond the virus itself.
Mass Mask Donations
In an effort to unite African countries in the battle against the virus, King Mohammed VI recently donated 8 million Moroccan-made masks and pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to 15 other African nations. The supplies include 600,000 plastic hygiene caps, 60,000 medical coats, 30,000 liters of hydroalcoholic gel and one million facial visors, along with drugs used for COVID-19 treatment such as chloroquine and Azithromycin. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the resources were split between 15 African countries in need. As generous as these donations are, however, some of the most meaningful shipments of equipment haven’t been publicized as much. This includes the shipment of Moroccan-made masks to Algeria.
Solidarity Superceding Tension
After Morocco exceeded its own national demand for face masks, the nation then shipped supplies to Algeria. Despite decades of political tension between Morocco and Algeria, Morocco exported 525,050 masks to Algeria, amounting to 2.85% of its total mask exports. The masks were a vital gift considering Algeria’s significant lack of masks and surge of cases early in May.
While King Mohammed VI exported the masks in good faith, it garnered a skeptical response from a spokesperson of the Algerian government named Belaid Mohand-Oussaid. Much to Morocco’s dismay, Mohand-Oussaid dismissed the gesture and instead saw it as a sly method of spying on Algeria. Nevertheless, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, confirmed that this allegation was false. Although the export was met with cynicism, the aid Morocco offered indicates the kingdom’s increased diplomacy efforts.
According to a joint statement by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Morocco’s General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR), inmates in 20 Moroccan prisons produce about 20,000 face masks per day. While prison labor in many countries is corrupt, the manufacturing of masks in Moroccan prisons aims to benefit the inmates themselves. The project explicitly aims to prepare inmates for reintegration into society after they serve their sentences. As requested by the labor market, making masks teaches inmates marketable tailoring techniques to use post-detention.
These efforts demonstrate the growing need for peace, both domestically and internationally, in a time of growing unrest. Morocco’s solidarity continues to grow for countries that largely rely on foreign aid and the Moroccan government has recently expressed its goal of eventually hosting the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While this commitment to foreign aid is always encouraged, it is especially imperative during an ongoing global health crisis. With hope, many more countries will follow Morocco’s example and stand in solidarity to help other countries around the world.
– Stella Grimaldi