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Addressing the shortage of medical face masks

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Apr 28, 2020

By the Philips Foundation team

In response to the shortage of medical face masks in the Netherlands, the Philips Foundation tied Refugee Company with the feedstock supplier of Philips and granted a loan for two mask-making machines to accelerate production. The aim is to produce 100,000 masks per day. A significant amount of the production, carried out by social enterprise Mondmaskerfabriek, will be made available for refugee camps bordering Europe.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands – To reduce dependency on factories on the other side of the world, Refugee Company, with the help of the Philips Foundation, established one of the first Dutch factories producing high-quality medical face masks. The masks, made from filter material from Philips intermediates and other raw materials, are produced in shifts by people with a refugee background. The production target is 100,000 masks a day.


The masks will be produced by social enterprise Mondmaskerfabriek, set up amid the pandemic by four entrepreneurs – among them Fleur Bakker, Founder of Refugee Company – as a means to respond to the general shortage of medical face masks, also in the Netherlands. Mondmaskerfabriek will only focus on the production of certified 3-layer surgical masks of the type IIR, which are suitable for regular hospital care, elderly care in nursing homes, home care, and oral care.


In order to accelerate production, the Philips Foundation, together with microfinance enterprise Qredit, has granted a loan to Refugee Company for the purchase of two machines with which the certified masks can be produced in the Netherlands.


“Philips Foundation has been involved from the start. It is great to see how we can use the knowledge in intermediates of Philips and convert it to filter material crucial for ensuring the quality of these medical face masks,” said Margot Cooijmans, Director of the Philips Foundation. “For this initiative, we also provide a loan, based mainly on the entrepreneurship shown, prompt action and overall approach of the team at Refugee Company led by Fleur Bakker.”


Philips Foundation and Refugee Company – through Mondmaskerfabriek – want to help ensure that everyone who is combatting the COVID-19 crisis has access to proper protective equipment. Refugee Company will initially supply the masks to essential professions based in the Netherlands.


Refugee camps


Public health experts view a major outbreak in a refugee camp as a worst-case scenario in the global coronavirus crisis. For millions of refugees and displaced people, access to quality healthcare is limited, and social distancing is nearly impossible.


For that reason, a significant part of the production is intended for humanitarian organizations working on the ground, who are struggling to access high-quality protective equipment for refugees and their personnel.


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