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On Top of Everything Else, There Might Be a Global Condom Shortage Looming

I'd say we're screwed, but ...

condoms

Did you know that 1 in 5 condoms throughout the WORLD are made in Malaysia by a single manufacturer? Well, now you do. What’s more important than that however is that all three of the factories operated by Karex Bhd have been closed for a week. This means that on top of a global pandemic, we might also be dealing with a global condom shortage.

The company supplies condoms to brands like Durex, and the shutdown has already led to a shortage. According to The Guardian, the amount of condoms needed by organizations like the NHS in Britain and the UN Population Fund is short by about 100 million. Not great.

Malaysia is South-East Asia’s worst-hit country when it comes to coronavirus, with 2,161 infections and 26 deaths at this time, with numbers rising. But it’s not just the shutdowns in Malaysia that threaten the world-wide condom supply chain.

Other major condom manufacturers are India, Thailand, and China. Factories in China were already shut down and with infections rising in India and Thailand, there could be shuttered there as well. With the shutdown at Karex and Chinese closures, that creates a magnum-sized problem.

There may be some hope. The facilities owned by Karex were given permission to come back online last Friday at about half capacity, after getting a dispensation as an essential business to hopefully make up the shortage, but if there’s another shutdown or other factories need to close, what will happen?

Chief executive of Karex Goh Miah Kiat was blunt when speaking with The Guardian: “It will take time to jumpstart factories and we will struggle to keep up with demand at half capacity. He added: “We are going to see a global shortage of condoms everywhere, which is going to be scary … My concern is that for a lot of humanitarian programmes … in Africa, the shortage will not just be two weeks or a month. That shortage can run into months.”

Is this going to affect the condom supply in America? Will word of a possible condom shortage lead to massive hoarding in the same way people have been being up toilet paper, or is someone planning to hoard condoms being, shall we say, overly optimistic? It’s unclear what impact, if any, this shortage may have for use here, but in this case, it’s not America that matters, it’s many countries that need condoms for reasons of global health and that’s why we should be concerned.

For that reason, condom manufacture should be continued as a matter of an essential health service. But if there’s a shortage, that’s just another reason why social distancing is so important.

(via: The Guardian, Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Image)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.