Homemade face masks get creative amid global shortage | News | DW | 25.04.2020

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Homemade face masks get creative amid global shortage

From banana leaves in the Amazon to baking paper in Italy, people have come up with unconventional ways to make masks and fight the pandemic. Some countries have already made wearing masks mandatory.

Amid a global shortage of face masks, people around the world have found creative ways to make their own masks to try protect themselves and others against the novel coronavirus.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has said only symptomatic people or those caring for coronavirus patients need face masks, a number of countries including Israel and the Czech Republic have made it mandatory to cover the nose and mouth in certain circumstances.

Factories are scrambling to produce at least 20 times more face masks a day to keep up with the high demand, but according to the National Development and Reform Commission in China, the masks can be quite difficult and expensive to manufacture. Due to a dire shortage, the prices of face masks have also soared around tenfold and there are a number of  reported cases of fake providers in the market.

So, people have become very creative in finding ways to make their own face masks. Chinese netizens on Weibo have posted photos of people assembling sanitary pads, diapers and fruit cut into half and pitted to be used as face masks. Meanwhile, social media platform Twitter has a showcase of posts showing people from the US to India taking to the sewing machine or posting instructions on how to hand sew facemasks.

Italy: Baking paper

Italian journalist and presenter Barbara Palombelli showed fellow Italians how to create a DIY face mask using baking paper. Her creative tutorial was broadcasted on Italian television.

UK: Tupperware

This Brit was caught wearing a plastic container over her head while on public transport.

Cuba and Japan: Bras and handkerchiefs

Cubans and Japanese citizens have been coming up with some unconventional ways of making protective masks from handkerchiefs or bras with elastic bands due to a shortage of protective gear.

Hong Kong: Plastic bottles

Some Hong Kongers have been seen wearing plastic water bottles over their heads as a form of protective gear amid the city's mask shortage.


People in the Philippines have been seen sporting diapers, underwear and garbage bags as face masks. The country also suffered a shortage of face masks during the eruption of Taal volcano in mid-January so Filipinos have already been making homemade masks before the coronavirus outbreak.

Indigenous tribes in the Amazon: Banana leaves

Indigenous people in Peru's Amazon jungle, who have not received government assistance, are protecting themselves with face masks made from banana leaves. The banana leaves are first washed and then placed over a fire to soften the leaves.

"We use what we have to protect ourselves from this disease that is all over the world. We are using banana leaves to protect ourselves from the virus," Julio Cusurichi, leader of the federation of indigenous communities in the Madre de Dios region of Peru's central jungle, told French news agency AFP. "So far, we have no help from the government … Food is already scarce, there is no money for oil, nor for sugar and much less for masks," he added.

Kenya: Rubbish, leaves and vegetables

Meanwhile, Twitter posts showing Kenyans using leaves and recycled materials as face masks illustrates the severe shortage of medical equipment in the east African nation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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