The International Judo Federation has launched a project co collect donations towards producing masks to protect the vulnerable in Africa ©IJF

The International Judo Federation (IJF) has launched a project to collect donations to help towards the cost of producing masks to protect vulnerable people in Africa from the coronavirus.

A programme is already underway in Zambia in which thousands of masks, locally produced and made of fabric, are distributed to vulnerable members of society.

All donations collected by the IJF will be invested in the protection of Africa's population.

"The lives of people all over the world have completely changed since the beginning of the year and everybody was affected, including athletes," said IJF President Marius Vizer.

"The International judo family remains true to the judo principles, especially mutual aid and welfare. 

"It is now time for all judokas to mobilise and contribute in order to help those who need it most.

"The African continent is especially vulnerable in these times and simple things like wearing a mask could help save lives.

"I urge all of you to join our gesture of solidarity and contribute to helping our African friends, whose combat against the virus is still in its early stages. 

"Let’s send together a strong message of judo solidarity to the world!"

The IJF say that for every dollar donated, one mask can be made.

Mask production and distribution has already started in Zambia in partnership with the Zambian Judo Association and the Zambian National Olympic Committee following a request from the Head of State, SH. Edgar Lungu.

Alongside the mask distribution, members of the public are being given information about the use of masks, some basic hygiene measures and the importance of social distancing.

At the time of writing, $1,668 (£1,334/€1,519) had been collected through the project.

Donations can be made by visiting the IJF website

There are more than 3.38 million reported cases of coronavirus worldwide, and more than 238,000 deaths.