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Rapid coronavirus response in Ukraine: from blouses to face masks

Santa Ukraina swiftly switches manufacturing following EBRD and EU support

Hundreds of fashionable dresses, blouses and skirts are the garments that textile producer Santa Ukrainausually manufactures and ships to European retail brands every day. But the coronavirus has transformed its work:

“We realised very quickly that now was the time to act,” explains Evhen Dyrdin, CEO of Santa Ukraina. “Our production was rapidly adjusted within a day to help resolve the shortage of face masks we face in our region and elsewhere in Ukraine.”

The EBRD supported Santa Ukraina with local expert advice two years ago. As a result, it became easier for the company to produce templates for its garments using IT software. In Ukraine, such advisory activities are funded by the European Union’s EU4Business initiative, Sweden, and the United States.

“We introduced modern CAD technology, which really was a game changer,” says

Evhen Dyrdin. “This means that we can quickly change our production and more rapidly and precisely manufacture garments as well. This technology proved instrumental in manufacturing face masks.”

The real heroes

Cases of coronavirus infections continue to grow in Ukraine, as with elsewhere in the world. Santa Ukraina’s workers were on board to help in this emergency situation. They volunteered to stay after hours and have already produced some 70,000 high quality face masks for both medical and private use, including for workers’ families.

The company donated some of the face masks to medical workers, elderly people and low-income citizens in Pervomaisk, located in the Mykolaiv region.

The rest are sold on wholesale to local enterprises and civil service institutions such as the police and municipalities, who purchase them for their employees. The sale price was set at cost price with no margin added, so they are available at a fraction of the price compared to those available in pharmacies.

Face masks are in such high demand that manufacturers cannot keep up with producing the quantities needed. It is flexibility of the workforce and production methods which helps to ease this pressure, as Santa Ukraina’s example shows.

“It was really a matter of pride and a feeling of unity with other citizens for me and my colleagues to be able to do this. These are worrying times for many of us. We did this to play our part in supporting our local community during these difficult times,” says seamstress Oksana Bondar, who alone produces 400 face masks a day.

Covid-19 solidarity package

From Morocco to Mongolia, the EBRD has supported its clients in becoming more competitive and adopting innovative digital solutions over the years.

It also launched an emergency €1 billion Solidarity Package of measures to help companies across its regions deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This is an initial response to the crisis and the Bank stands ready to do more if and when needed.

The Bank also backs the Team Europe initiative led by the European Commission, which aims to provide support to partner countries during and after the Covid-19 crisis, including humanitarian and health initiatives as well as support to overcome the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.

At Santa Ukraina’s factory, the production of its usual garments is still ongoing, with the necessary health precautions applied. The partial switch to producing face masks has instilled a sense in everyone that the company will tackle whatever short or mid-term challenges may arise.

“We realise that these are times which are completely out of the ordinary,” says Oksana Pastushok, Chairwoman of the Board. “We are very confident, however, that our company is in good shape. Producing the masks is only one example of how flexible we are and how quickly we can adjust to the even most adverse circumstances.”