COVID-19 PPE: An Interview with Togo Post’s Zoumaro Gnande

Packages filled every available space in storage at Togo Post’s sorting facility. It could not keep up with customers’ needs in part because staff levels had been reduced to allow for social distancing, and with no international flights, inbound and outbound, mail was suspended for several months.

“Ultimately, the quality of service provided by Togo Post has been seriously affected since the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis,” said Zoumaro Gnande, Head of Mail Tracking at the National Sorting Centre.
He said it has been the most difficult aspect of the pandemic to see the hundreds of items arriving at the sorting centre every week and to be unable to forward them.
“Particularly our customers’ parcels containing items intended to support their families in other countries,” Gnande said.
The post has since negotiated with airlines to convey its dispatches within the shortest possible time-frame and services have been reorganized with a staff rotation system.
Additionally, Togo Post has taken several steps to combat COVID-19. The post installed hand-washing facilities at post office entrances and postal premises in general, Gnande said. It also distributed masks and hand sanitizers and hung posters to raise awareness of the social-distancing measures in place.

“I feel that the most important measure taken by us has been our ongoing efforts in raising staff and customer awareness about the importance of continuing to respect social distancing until such time as this crisis is over,” Gnande said.

But there has been a shortage of necessary supplies, such as masks, disinfectant gels, hand-washing facilities and thermometers to check the temperature of people entering the post offices.
While Togo was in the midst of its fight to protect employees and customers, a project was taking shape at the UPU.
The UPU’s Development and Cooperation Directorate (DCDEV) partnered with UNOPS on a project called COVID-PPE, an effort to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to its members in vulnerable countries. The project was responsible for delivering 1.2 million masks to 36 countries, including Togo.
“The masks generously donated to us are invaluable in protecting the health of our staff, and very much appreciated by them – and what is more, we received them at the very time when there was a sharp increase in the price of these products,” Gnande said.
However, a need for PPE remains. Gnande shared the post’s vision for what that support could look like.
First, he suggested a shift toward reusable masks and away from single-use.
“This would allow savings to be made and free resources for the purchase of other PPE,” Gnande said.
Additionally, he encouraged the UPU, through its Director General, to continue its efforts with development projects undertaken for the benefit of postal operators.
He said the UPU could promote and make available to operators technological tools.
“This, for example, could take the form of providing customers with the possibility of carrying out their operations remotely so that they no longer need to go to the post office in person in this pandemic situation,” he said.