Kantamanto Fire Outbreak and The Secondhand Solidarity Fund Response

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Two weeks ago a fire destroyed one of Kantamanto’s main re-manufacturing hubs where millions of secondhand garments are repaired, dyed, printed & upcycled. This is also where many retailers from across the market store bales of secondhand clothing as well as bales of dead-stock fabrics, which many designers use for their collections, and this is where our team buys tools for our R&D Lab, items like cassava starch, thread and needles.

This fire, along with the last one in 2020, came just after retailers poured their savings into buying bales for the Christmas season. One of the first retailers we talked to had bought 11 bales at US $150 a piece. A tailor came to our office reporting that he lost four machines, prepared with receipts showing he had purchased two of them only one week prior. Although we haven’t asked for it, many retailers and tailors have come to our office with folders full of proof that they pay rent in that section or that they bought equipment. No fatalities have been reported, but injuries are inevitable. A mother, with her baby on her back, went searching amongst the debris for anything she could recover and ended up rushing to the hospital after her baby suffered an asthma attack. One of the women in our Mabilgu program stepped on a nail when she rushed out of her room near the fire without shoes.

Our team was in the market before the fire was put out and we have been coordinating a relief effort since, using funds from our Secondhand Solidarity Fund. We collected more than 800 names within the first week and have met with market leadership, who believe that the number of people impacted is more than 1,000 individuals. We began distributing funds immediately & have sent between GHS 3,000-4,500 to 75 people, but it will likely take us a month to work through the entire list. Anyone who has been involved in crisis relief knows that challenges crop up, like people losing phones and Ghana cards in the fire, meaning that people cannot receive mobile money transactions straight away. It also takes time to truly support someone. Our community engagement team frequently receives calls at 4am from people who aren’t only in need of financial recovery, but who also want to talk to someone who will listen.

We will distribute over US $250,000 to those impacted by the fire. If you would like to help replenish the Secondhand Solidarity Fund you can contribute at solidarity.theor.org.