I am the mask: Who am I?

Today we're hearing from a different member of the team. Not one of our staff, but part of our equipment.

Most of you, or probably almost all of you, know about me. But for those who don’t, I have been used by humans since antiquity.

Whether it’s covering your face, like a veil at weddings; playfully hiding it at masquerades; or protecting it from toxic air to help you breath, I have been there.

As you will have noticed, my buddies and I are all over the news lately; mostly known by our technical names: surgical mask, N95, FFP2, FFP3.

Suddenly more of the world is seeing us as a necessity and not just an accessory.

But, why?

The pandemic

You probably know the answer.

From a single case of infection on Day One to millions suffering from the virus just a few months later, the new member of the coronavirus family left healthcare systems all over the world exposed, shocked and  vulnerable.

A state of emergency was declared worldwide, global movements were halted, cities locked down, educational programs were frozen, and weddings and other large gatherings were cancelled.

Everything came to a standstill.

Strong allies

Some time into the crisis it was found that we, masks, can be strong allies against the virus.

We can stop the spread by standing tall like a Great Wall between coronavirus and human bodies. This news brought us into the limelight.

MASKS FOR ALL became a new normal. Everyone wanted a piece of us.


An MSF staff member wears a maks outside of the COVID-19 isolation unit in Pakistan

The increased demand for the “technical/medical” masks designed to protect healthcare workers led to shortages. It made us a part of a commercial war marked by severe price hikes and a decline in quality.

We became luxury items, out of reach for many.  But access to life-saving equipment during a pandemic should be anything but a privilege.

To make matters worse, we also became a political statement for many around the world, at a time when politics should not be at the forefront.

This is the reason why today I took to MSF blogs to request you all to use me and my friends wisely.

Who you need

A reusable cloth mask can be useful for many of you. Some of you might require a surgical mask, depending on the exact nature of your role and who you are interacting with. Healthcare providers in particular must be prioritized for surgical masks or respirator masks (N95 or FFP2) depending on the nature of their work.

Why do I say so? Because, if essential workers are not safe, who will be there to help everyone else?

Heroes without capes

But whether it’s a nurse who wears personal protective equipment (PPE) for 12 hours in scorching hot weather to provide care to the patients, or the hands that work day and night to put us together so that there’s always a supply of us, these heroes without capes deserve immense respect and most importantly, your cooperation to continue their services.

Gotta go now, an adventure awaits me.

Wear us right and stay safe!

Click here to read my adventures in Pakistan >