Face masks are in high demand in Ghana following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, just as personal protective equipment (PPE) are in short supply after the onset of the pandemic.
A recent social media post showing surgical face masks scattered on the floor with some women washing them have gone viral.
The texts accompanying the photos claim the women are Ghanaian head porters popularly known as ‘kayayei’ who were captured secretly washing used surgical face masks retrieved from refuse dumps with plans to resell them in traffic.
A post on Facebook said; “Please be careful you do not buy any face masks in traffic. These kayayei pick them from refuse dumps wash them and resell them in traffic”. Please, we here at KLC will advice any Ghanaian up there to purchase face mask from store or the pharmacy or any authorized vendor whom you think is worthy to sell them. Picture below: Beware Stay safe Corona Virus is real.”
The same post has also been shared multiple times on WhatsApp and Twitter.
To verify this claim, we used Google Image search to find all samples of the exact images uploaded online. We also identified older versions of the photos and found that they first surfaced online on 18th April 2020.
We also used phrases from the accompanying texts to confirm the exact source of the message using the First Tweet app.
The search pointed to a Mozambican journalist, Alexandre Nhampossa, tweeting via @AllexandreMZ.
The journalist indicated to us, when we contacted him, that the photos were taken in the Dondo Municipality of Sofala Province in Mozambique.
According to a statement shared by the Dondo City Council, the two women in the picture were workers in a Chinese-owned shipyard warehouse. They had been engaged by their employers to wash the disposable surgical masks which had been damaged by rains in the warehouse.
The masks were to be sold later but the city authorities upon a tip-off, moved in to arrest the situation, seized the masks and incinerated them at a dumpsite.
While it is true that the women captured in the images were busted washing disposed surgical masks, the incident did not happen in Ghana and the people involved are not head porters.