UNIDO throws weight behind COVID-19 fight

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With over 15, 000 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) recorded, Ghana’s fight against the virus has received a welcome boost of support from the Global Quality Standards Programme (GQSP) for the development of standards for personal protective equipment (PPEs), sanitizers and related items.

The UNIDO-GQSP collaboration has developed a national standard for alcohol-based hand sanitizer and a publicly available specification for the re-usable face masks manufactured in Ghana. In addition, thirty-eight other international standards have been adopted to facilitate the quality evaluation of all the key PPE used in the fight against Covid-19. The implementation of these standards will ensure that PPE and hand sanitizers are fit for purpose – are safe and can be relied on.

UNIDO-GQSP’s support is being channeled through the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), the nation’s standards body, responsible for the development and promulgation of national quality standards across a wide variety of industry sectors.

The GQSP is a Swiss-funded project implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry with the Ghana Standards Authority as one of the lead implementing agencies.

The GQSP is focused on upgrading national quality infrastructure as well as supporting Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to comply with relevant standards and market requirements.

The GSA also has Conformity Assessment functions which involves, testing, inspection and certification. This ensures that products and services meet international standards in terms of quality and safety. In addition, the GSA maintains and oversees measurements in trade so that consumers and industry alike obtain fair deals in issues relating to weights and measures.

The focus on reusable face mask standards is partially influenced by the World Health Organization’s new guidelines advising that face masks should be worn in public to help stop the spread of the virus.

This change in position is informed by studies over recent weeks which show that face masks could provide “a barrier for potentially infectious droplets”.

 

Presidential Directive

Aside of WHO’s promptings, Ghana’s focus on the production and wearing of face masks is also dictated by a Presidential directive that makes the face mask a mandatory wear in public spaces. In furtherance to this, a directive was issued on the wearing of face masks in all public spaces under an Act which provides that the Minister may order an individual to take a preventive measure in respect of Public health matters.

Prior to the Presidential Directive, the Minister responsible for health declared a public health emergency by an Executive Instrument (E. I. 61) under section 169 of the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851).

The ministerial directive not only dovetailed into the fight against the virus but also provides Ghana with innovative opportunities to create livelihoods for its teeming youth flowing from the mandatory nature of the Act which requires “the use of face masks in all public places where it may be difficult to maintain social distancing”.

Additional instructions accompany the directives aimed at avoiding contamination, infection or transmission of the virus which include procedures for wearing and removing a mask as incorrect use of the face mask carries a high risk of infection.

Against this backdrop, UNIDO’s partnership with Ghana is a welcome initiative that provides an opportunity to harness the capacity of the fabrics and garment industries, against Covid-19.

In the main, UNIDO-GQSP’s effort is inspired by SDG-9 of the sustainable development goals which is to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation” with a mandate of support to help members build “inclusive and sustainable economies that are more resilient in facing pandemics, climate change and many other global challenges”.

Country Experience in Relation to PPE

Other adopted standards include those for ventilators, gloves, PPEs for medical staff as well as for the sanitary workers.

Standard Test Methods required for use by the regulatory and other conformity assessment bodies have also been adopted – making these standards national standards and easily available for use.

Economic experts predict far-reaching and lasting economic impacts on the global economy with a warning that the burden will be heavier on developing countries and their vulnerable communities and populations of which Ghana is not an exception.

It therefore lies on all institutions under the UNIDO/Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) Global Quality and Standards Programme and their SME partners to play their roles well for the success of this effort and to ensure the war against Covid-19 is executed to the letter and victory attained sooner than later.

The GQSP is a UNIDO-SECO collaboration in partnership with Ghana’s Ministry of Trade Industry in Ghana. It is aimed at increasing the export competitiveness of Ghana by strengthening the quality and standards compliance of SMEs to facilitate their access to international markets.

The specific value chains selected for the implementation of the project in Ghana are cashew, oil palm and cocoa. The implementation will, among others, strengthen the National Quality Infrastructure institutions to offer quality services to SMEs, offer technical support to SMEs to enhance their compliance to national and international standards. A third outcome of the project seeks to enhance the quality awareness of actors in the selected value chains.

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