How a Palestinian shoemaker started the West Bank’s only mask factory overnight


March 26, 2020
JFJFP
What started as an experiment days after the coronavirus outbreak in the West Bank is now a factory producing thousands of masks a day

Amjad Zaghir, the only mask manufacturer in the West Bank, at his Hebron factory

Suha Arraf reports in +972:

Two days after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Bethlehem, Amjad Zaghir, a shoe factory owner from the Palestinian city of Hebron, realized the West Bank would soon run out of face masks. Less than three weeks later, he is now the only mask manufacturer there.

Zaghir’s factory, which he started overnight, now produces thousands of masks a day, and has made him a national hero for helping Palestinians protect themselves from the virus.

Zaghir got to work as soon as news broke of the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Bethlehem. He bought a mask and began studying it, tilting it left and right.  He initially thought he could recreate it with some of the materials he uses in shoemaking. “I approached my friend, a pharmacist, and asked him what materials are used to make masks,” recalled Zaghir. “He explained that what we use in shoemaking is unsuitable, and pointed me in the right direction.”

Zaghir then began looking for the right fabric around Hebron. He came across a vendor who had purchased the material from Turkey a year ago, but left it unused, because it was cheaper to import masks from China than produce them in Hebron. Zaghir bought the fabric, which his pharmacist friend confirmed was the correct material.

“At first, I tried sewing the masks using the same machine we use to sew shoes. But that attempt was unsuccessful because the fabric for the masks was too thin and easily ripped apart,” said Zaghir. “I tried to iron the fabric to create the folds, but I ended up burning it.”

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