Malaysian social enterprise enlists refugee artisans to help produce PPE

  • Style
  • Sunday, 19 Apr 2020

Malaysia is still in need of PPE, as it keeps those working on the frontlines safe from the virus.

Everyone is coming together to help out the Covid-19 crisis. One social enterprise, Earth Heir, is banking on the manpower from refugees to produce and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE).

The company, which sells handcrafted heritage fashion accessories, has long worked with artisans who are refugees in Malaysia – and is now switching the production to focus on essentials needed by frontliners.

In cooperation with the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) Asia, social enterprises, non-governmental organisations and individuals in Malaysia, it is producing and distributing "fair trade PPE".

According to Earth Heir, the PPE is intended for Malaysian frontline medical personnel, frontline social workers and others who are involved in the management and control of Covid-19.

Each set of PPE comes with a gown, head cover and shoe covers. They are sewn by refugee tailors living in Malaysia, operating within a workshop sanitised according to WFTO standards.

Earth Heir is appealing to the public to help fund its cause ( There are three donation packages: RM215 for 10 sets, RM1,075 for 50 sets and RM2,150 for 100 sets.

The cost breakdown comprises 24% for materials, 47% for labour costs (paid to refugees), 25% for operational costs, 2% for transportation costs and 2% as a form of donation to the WFTO Covid-19 Recovery Fund.

“The Covid-19 crisis has also affected the livelihoods of refugee artisans and producers that Earth Heir works with, ” Earth Heir reveals, in a statement posted on social media via Facebook.

“Therefore, this project both provides a means for refugee artisans to earn an income, and support the effort to help our national heroes battling the coronavirus outbreak.”

Not only that, Earth Heir also adds that it will be coordinating the production and distribution of the PPE, adhering to fair trade principles and ensuring transparency throughout the process.

Since it started working producing PPE on April 6, RM34,615 has been raised. This is 23% of the RM150,000 goal (equivalent to 1,610 sets of PPE). So far, 500 pieces of head covers (which also cover the neck) have been delivered to seven government clinics in the Klang Valley.

A further 625 sets of full PPE (gowns, long headcovers and tall boot covers) were donated to various hospitals and clinics such as Hospital Selayang, Hospital Klang, Hospital Tunku Jaafar (Seremban).

Malaysia is still in need of medical personal protective equipment. It was reported on April 14 that the country has only 19 days of supply left of some items that form the complete PPE used by medical frontliners.

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